The Los Angeles Lakers took a punch to the gut on Thursday night, losing back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Only a day after the Philadelphia 76ers ended their unbeaten streak on the road, the Detroit Pistons — entering with a 4-14 record — blew L.A. out to hand the defending NBA champions a 15-point loss. Having struggled for the majority of the game, the Lakers collapsed spectacularly in the fourth quarter and scored just 14 points in the final 12 minutes.
Kyle Kuzma and LeBron James each scored team-high 22 points in the absence of Anthony Davis. The All-Star forward missed the matchup due to a right quad contusion which heavily affected the team’s rotations.
The Lakers ended up testing lineups they had barely — if at all — used beforehand as, due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, their pregame prep consists almost entirely of work in the film room.
“I think we’re all learning on the fly because of the lack of practice time with this season. It’s very difficult to get those practice minutes on the floor to know what works and what doesn’t work,” James explained after the game.
“A lot of our games are like big practices for us too. Coach is still learning different lineups and seeing what combinations work, what combinations don’t work. Myself, I’m out there playing with certain lineups, certain lineups I don’t play with, certain lineups I do play with, so I’m logging a lot of minutes with guys I may not have logged with in a couple games.
“It’s all a learning experience and all of us are trying to figure it out.”
Kuzma, whose family attended the game he started in the place of Davis, said the loss did not concern him much considering L.A. is still early in the process of figuring out its identity as a team. “Everything is all film-related because we’ve got a lot of high IQ guys that can translate something from a TV to the court,” Kuzma said.
“That’s just how we figure it out. One day at a time, don’t dwell, even-keel, get back to work. That’s the best thing about it.”
Frank Vogel confident Lakers will ‘bounce back’
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel took the responsibility for the upsetting loss to Detroit, saying his rotations did not allow the team to “get going,” particularly in the second half. But he is confident the defeat is just a minor setback which L.A. will soon get past.
“We’ll be fine,” Vogel said. “You have nights like this in a long season. We’ll be fine, we’ll bounce back. None of us are happy with how we played, but we’ll bounce back.”
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