The Los Angeles Lakers looked to still have an extremely unlikely chance to make the playoffs, but their loss to the Indiana Pacers all but ended that pipe dream.
The Lakers have held teams to just 105.6 points per 100 possessions on the season, the 12th-best defensive rating in the entire NBA. Against Indiana, however, the Lakers couldn’t come anywhere close to that level of success, hemorrhaging points at a rate that would equal 117.4 points per 100 possessions.
For context, the Lakers’ performance against the Pacers was the 10th-worst defensive rating the team has allowed this season. Head coach Luke Walton thought his team’s problems started on that end of the floor, in part because of misplaced focus on offense, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I don’t think we were physical enough on that end of the court. I think the hot start we got off to offensively kind of led us to thinking this was going to be an offensive game. Which, we were mistaken because to win against this team in their home building, you’ve got to get stops. We were letting that ball just move freely and eventually they found their rhythm and really made us pay.”
Walton is right about the Lakers not being a good enough offensive outfit (they rank in the bottom 10 teams in the NBA in offensive efficiency) to serve as a counterweight if their defensive intensity lapses.
Unfortunately for him and the team, that was exactly what seemed to happen in the third quarter, where the Lakers were outscored 35-21 as the Pacers pulled away. The Lakers have had other games like their Tuesday loss this year.
No team can keep at peak intensity for a full 82-game season. The problem for the Lakers is that they aren’t good enough to win in spite of mediocre effort yet, meaning that they’ll have to lock in if they want to surprise a few more teams down the stretch.