One step forward and two steps back is an accurate way of describing the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2021-22 campaign.
The Lakers pulled off a surprising win over the Toronto Raptors to turn around and blow a 16-point lead against a shorthanded Washington Wizards squad. Los Angeles had firm control of the game for most of the night as they did well attacking the basket and limiting Washington to tough shots but took their foot off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter.
The final period was ugly for the Lakers as their offense stalled out and failed to contain Kristaps Porzingis, who had been quiet up until that point. Head coach Frank Vogel has remained patient and calm during the year but sounded frustrated when asked about the loss.
“This group needs to learn how to win,” Vogel said. “They have to learn how to win together and what that entails; we saw a snapshot of it last night with 48 minutes of next-man, selfless offense without forcing in the paint, which we got back to doing again tonight.
“For this team to take that step, fourth quarter is where you win games. You got to have a lockdown defense in the fourth, and we didn’t have that tonight. The final three quarters, we didn’t defend well enough. The [Washington] Wizards have not been winning, but they have been scoring with the best of them. Their offense is rated No. 1 in the last 10 games, so we knew the defensive side was going to be a challenge, but we didn’t do well enough in those final three, but especially down in the fourth.”
It is interesting to hear Vogel emphasize the fourth-quarter defense as a reason for the loss, as the lineups seemed far from optimal. Porzingis got his way nearly every time down the floor, yet Vogel kept his small-ball lineup out to dry. Rotations have been a constant criticism of Vogel, and those seemed valid once again in the loss to the Wizards.
With a Play-In Tournament appearance on the horizon, Vogel is going to need to find a way to get his roster playing the way he envisions as soon as possible. All the signs seem to be pointing to another dispiriting finish to a season, but maybe Vogel and the Lakers have a surprise in them.
Frank Vogel says Lakers are not ‘letting go of rope’
Most fans have understandably checked out of the Lakers’ season as their inconsistency has been difficult to watch. Vogel previously said that he and the team are not letting go of the rope, but it is hard to feel optimistic about their chances of making any meaningful run in the next few weeks.
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