The Los Angeles Lakers got the 2016-17 NBA season off to a roaring start, winning 10 of their first 20 games and providing hope to their massive fan base. Since then, the team has mostly struggled as they have been afflicted with one injury after another and youthful mistakes have cost them a number of winnable games.
Most noticeably, the Lakers have gotten into the habit of losing large leads, and Thursday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers was no different. During a surge in the second quarter, Los Angeles pushed ahead to a 14-point lead, but it was cut to nine by halftime, and the game was tied just five minutes into the third quarter.
Luke Walton said one of the issues he's seeing is that "we look at a lead and think it's bigger than it really is…" (on @SpectrumSN)
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 6, 2017
Walton does appear to be on to something here. When the Lakers jump out to large leads, it’s usually because their offense is clicking. Against the Blazers, Jordan Clarkson was raining threes (4-of-7 in the game) and the duo of Tarik Black and Thomas Robinson wreaking havoc in the paint. However, Los Angeles’ perimeter defense slipped, allowing the Blazers to get to the rim or get open looks from outside.
Portland scored on their final four offensive trips of the first half, and before the Lakers realized what happened, their double-digit lead was just nine. In the modern NBA game, with the way threes are shot, and the pace teams are playing at, there are few leads that are truly safe. 14 points may seem like a lot, but with over a half of a game left, defensive slip-ups can come back to haunt you, and they certainly did for the Lakers, who ended up losing by nine.