The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled to maintain the intensity of play in the third quarter since the start of the 2021-22 season.
L.A. allows 29.3 points per game in the third period, only 0.3 less than the NBA’s worst Sacramento Kings. Perhaps the Lakers’ most spectacular third-quarter collapse of the season came in the 107-83 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 13.
The Purple and Gold headed for halftime with a 49-44 lead but got outscored 40-12 in the third period and never recovered from the second-half breakdown.
But not only did the Lakers avoid another post-halftime slump in Sunday’s 110-106 victory over the Detroit Pistons. They built a double-digit lead thanks to a 16-0 run propelled by the team’s Big 3.
“I just thought the third quarter was our best defensive quarter,” head coach Frank Vogel said.
“We had won five out of [Lakers’ last] eight third quarters coming into tonight’s game, so now I guess six out of nine. Obviously it was a troubled area for us, obviously that Minnesota game was the biggest one and we knew we had to do better there. So we made the adjustment and have improved there, but I challenge these guys to really compete to be a great defensive team, that’s why our lives are hard right now.
“We’re not fully committed and bought into all the details and effort pieces on that side of the ball, and that’s all we talked about the last 48 hours and obviously that third quarter was our best defensive quarter.”
LeBron James said the defensive effort allowed the Lakers to hurt the Pistons in transition. The four-time NBA champion added he hopes that L.A. has fixed its third-quarter issue and will continue the recent trend of solid performances coming out of the halftime break.
“It just starts on the defensive end. In the third quarter we got defensive stops, we rebounded and we were able to get out in transition,” James said.
“We shared the ball; we got the ball moving from side to side. We just played with great pace. Those are pretty good ingredients to us having a good third quarter.”
James: Lakers’ 2021-22 start ranks among my career’s biggest challenges
James reiterated he is confident the best days are still ahead of the Lakers in the 2021-22 campaign. However, he also emphasized how difficult the start of the season has been for him and the team, making quite a statement.
“It ranks right at the top of any other challenge I’ve had in my career,” the 17-time All-Star said after Sunday’s win over the Pistons.
“Which actually brings out the best in me and I love that. I love trying to figure out how we can be better. Get through the mud, get through the adversity, and make it sweeter on the backend.”
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