The Los Angeles Lakers were lit up by the L.A. Clippers in their 121-106 loss, a season-high tying fifth in a row for Luke Walton’s team.
Poor defensive performances have dogged the Lakers throughout the month of December, and while Walton chalked some of that up to a difficult schedule, Kyle Kuzma put things more simply. “Just not defending. We just haven’t done a good job of necessarily doing that,” Kuzma said.
The Lakers’ metrics in December make Kuzma look like a master of the understatement. The Lakers were allowing just 102 points per 100 possessions, the eighth-best defensive rating in the NBA prior to the final month of 2017.
In December, however, they have a defensive rating of 108.7, which ranks 22nd in the league. The loss to the Clippers was just the latest evidence that the Lakers have to fix their defense if they want to start playing anywhere near the level they were at earlier in the year.
“Obviously, we’ve had some different lineups, trying some different things out, but to me that’s the No. 1 thing we have to fix,” Walton said. “It’s what we’ve been able to hang our hat on all year, is we get after it on defense, we get stops and we get out and run.”
“Tonight, we got out and ran, we scored, but we didn’t play any defense. At least in the second half I felt like we competed on defense. The first half they moved the ball freely, wherever they wanted. We have to get back to taking pride in being a defensive team first.”
The Lakers didn’t do so against the Clippers, and if they can’t figure out how to get back to doing so, their defensive regression is going to be further mirrored by a backslide in the standings and completely out of the playoff hunt in the Western Conference.