The Los Angeles Lakers dropped below .500 yet again after a loss to a short-handed Miami Heat team on Sunday evening. The loss was essentially decided in the first quarter, when a dismal effort from the Lakers starting lineup put them in an early hole.
Russell Westbrook — who was one of the team’s best players on the night — finished with 24 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists on 9-for-15 from the field. However, Westbrook is always one to say the stats don’t matter in a loss, and after a 39-25 first quarter, a loss was all but inevitable.
When discussing why the Lakers started slow yet again, Westbrook had a simple answer. “We just started off a little, a lot too slow. We picked it up a little too late, our sense of urgency was a little late.”
In the fourth quarter, the Lakers stormed all the way back from down as many as 23 points. They put pressure on the Heat, but Miami was able to respond and secure the win. Westbrook used that as evidence that a lack of effort is what leads to their losses. “Just playing harder, that’s it,” Westbrook said of the comeback.
“They were just playing harder than us. When we decided to play hard, you saw a difference. I doesn’t matter in this league what a team runs or what it is, if someone is playing harder than you, you will know right away. And then that’s that. And when we decided to be able to step our intensity up on both sides, rebound the ball, defense, run, play the way we’re supposed to play, then you saw the results.”
The Lakers have oft been criticized this season for a lack of effort, leading to inconsistent results and a .500 record. There’s an argument to be made that if the Lakers displayed the same effort level that they did in the fourth quarter against the Heat, their record would be several games better.
But part of being a championship-caliber team is the ability to play a consistent brand of basketball, and the Lakers simply are not doing that right now. L.A. coasted for three quarters before finally giving a spirited effort in the fourth, where they outscored the Heat 37-24.
Westbrook is known for playing with endless effort and energy, and one of his main roles with this team was supposed to be increasing the effort level. If he can figure out a way to rally the troops with more consistency, L.A. may have a shot to pile up some wins.
LeBron James: Lakers had too many breakdowns early
LeBron James echoed the sentiment of Westbrook after the loss, saying that early breakdowns dug too deep of a hole. “We just had too many breakdowns,” James said. “Versus a team that’s this well-coached, you can’t have multiple breakdowns throughout the course of a game, throughout the course of a possession, throughout the first half or quarter because they’ll make you pay.”
“There’s a lot of teams in this league that times won’t make you pay for mistakes, but they are not one of them and they made us pay every time.”
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