LeBron James: Defending At A High Level Is Key To Lakers Winning
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers were effectively ran off the floor by the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night, falling 127-109 in their first loss to their division rivals this season. This final score hardly even reflects the way Phoenix controlled the game from wire to wire, as a 31-22 fourth quarter helped to close the gap for LeBron James and company.

The Suns led 66-52 at halftime and 105-78 after three quarters. It was a poor defensive performance throughout for the Lakers as they allowed the big three of Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker to finish with 86 points on 58.2% from the field, much too efficient of a mark for the three superstars.

This prompted James to recognize what it will take for the Lakers to win games consistently this season.

“I mean, we understand that in order for us to win, we have to defend at a high level,” James said. “Every team creates different challenges, disadvantages or advantages or whatever the case may be. We prepare for it and we try to execute.

“Obviously this being the fourth time Phoenix has seen the way we’ve defended them throughout the first four games and even if you include the preseason game in Palm Springs, so I think they were very aware of what we wanted to do, plus having their big three helped as well.”

The Lakers poor defense against Phoenix also forces them to look ahead to a matchup with the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are nowhere near as star-studded as the Suns, but they have won nine of their last 11 games and have averaged 122.8 points per game in that span. They have wins against the Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.

James spoke about what the Lakers need to do to cool down a red-hot team like the Jazz.

“We got to defend, we got to get back in transition,” James added. “They historically have one of the best home-court advantages when you go up there. The altitude plays a little part in it so we got to get into the flow of the game early, catch our second wind as quickly as possible and then make them defend. But they’re a very good team, they’ve been playing really well lately.”

But as he always does, James was not too concerned by the result of one game.

“I don’t know. It’s just another game. They played exceptionally well, we didn’t. We have another one on Saturday.”

The Lakers have prided themselves on their defense this season and have made it known that their identity rests on that end of the floor. Slip-ups against teams like the Suns can hurt that perception, putting the onus on the Lakers to double down on their defensive identity in their next games.

Darvin Ham felt turnovers were biggest issue for Lakers

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham felt that turnovers, not the defense, was the biggest issue for L.A. in their loss to the Suns. They had 18 leading to 21 Suns points.

“We turned the ball over. We had nine turnovers for their 17 points in the first half,” Ham said after the game. “I had to go back and look, but a bunch of them were live-ball turnovers.”

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