The Los Angeles Lakers saw their five-game winning streak snapped in a 115-113 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Unlike in the previous five victories, the Lakers started strongly but then faltered as the game went on, eventually collapsing spectacularly in the fourth quarter. The defending NBA champions allowed Golden State to come back from a deficit as high as 19 points and outscore L.A. 67-49 in the second half.
Despite the Lakers owning the best defensive rating and excelling at cleaning the glass as well as blocking shots, they again struggled to stop their opponents from scoring in the paint. L.A. gave up 56 points in the key despite often having a significant size advantage over the Warriors and out-rebounding them 61-39.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has conceded that the team is yet to fully implement his defensive schemes, pointing out low post coverage specifically as the area he expects improvement from his players.
“I think it’s still too early to put a DNA on us guarding the paint,” he said. “I will say that I challenged my team in practice to be better with our low man protection.”
Vogel added he was not fully satisfied with L.A.’s paint protection even during the recently-ended winning streak despite defeating their rivals by more than 10 points in four of the five victories.
“I’d say the last three or four games, even though we won, it hasn’t been done at a high enough level for my liking,” Vogel added. “It’s something we’ll get better. We’re doing a good job overall on that side of the ball, but always working to get better.”
Kyle Kuzma agreed with Vogel, admitting the Lakers have been struggling with low post defense since the beginning of the season. “Low man,” he responded when asked about his observation on where team’s defense in the paint needs to improve.
“I think that’s the biggest thing. The low man just hasn’t been as great as it’s been all season. It’s something we’ve got to get back to.”
Wesley Matthews gearing up for Bucks reunion
As the Lakers are still unbeaten away from Staples Center, they are hoping to redeem themselves on the upcoming road trip and further improve their impeccable 7-0 record when not at home.
Their first stop will be a quality test in two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Wesley Matthews, who spent the previous campaign in Milwaukee, said L.A. was aware of the strength of their opponents.
But, the guard added, the Lakers approached the tough matchup aiming to go back to winning days. “We’ve got to bounce back from that Golden State loss,” Matthews said.
“We’ve got a tough road trip ahead of us, starting with Milwaukee. They’ve got great players all across the board, great team. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
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