LeBron James and Anthony Davis got most of the headlines because of their outstanding offensive plays, but it was defense that carried the Los Angeles Lakers to the 2020 NBA Championship.
With Davis leading the way, the Lakers finished third in the league in defensive rating and fourth in points allowed per game. This season the results have been mixed so far with the Lakers having stretches where they look completely dominant on that end of the floor while looking completely lost at other times.
Davis was critical and extremely honest about where he believed the Lakers needed to be defensively following an uninspired performance against the San Antonio Spurs, and he led the charge the next time he took the floor.
The Lakers forced 21 turnovers in their victory over the Houston Rockets while collecting 13 steals and eight blocks. It was a dominant defensive performance and one that will need to be a regular occurrence if the Lakers plan on accomplishing a regular season goal and also repeating.
“Our goal is to be the No. 1 defensive team in the league. It’s going to take our film sessions, our shootarounds, the practices when we do get on the floor, and then the games to continue to work on those habits,” James said.
“We added five new guys to our rotation this year in Trezz, Dennis the Menace, Wes, Marc and also Talen. We’re all getting accustomed to one another, getting down our rotations, what we want to build, how we build from the paint out to the perimeter. We want to be the best defensive team in the league.”
It is surely something that is reachable for the Lakers as they went into the Rockets game ranked sixth in both defensive rating and points allowed per game. While much was made of how their offseason additions would affect them offensively, it is defense they are most concerned about maintaining.
The losses of both Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso for a stretch of games hurt the Lakers immensely as they are arguably the team’s two top perimeter defenders. With both back on the floor, the team has an energy on that end of the court that they were missing.
In the end, the Lakers will go as far as Davis and James carry them but that applies on both ends. Davis has embraced his role as the defensive captain of this team, but James is carrying his weight there as well which makes it that much more possible for the Lakers to reach their defensive peak.
LeBron says the Lakers heard Davis ‘loud and clear’
Davis didn’t pull any punches when critiquing the Lakers defense following the loss to the Spurs. The team seemed to take his words seriously and came out on fire against the Rockets, with James noting Davis’ accountability helping to make sure the Lakers got his message.
“We thought it was right on point and we were able to follow that with a very good defensive game against Chicago, even though we didn’t score the ball like we were accustomed to,” James said.
“And then we followed it up with another good defensive game. We heard him loud and clear.”
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