The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of a massive free fall, winning just two of their past 16 games. Along the way, they have been unable to put together a complete game, often playing well in one-half but getting badly beaten in the other. Most recently, the team took care of business in the first half against the Dallas Mavericks only to get dominated in the second, including a 31-13 third quarter.
It wasn’t always this way. Through the first 20 games of the 2016-2017 NBA season, the Lakers went 10-10 and were thrilling fans and pundits alike with their high-octane offense and never-quit attitude. It’s this hot start that has coach Luke Walton convinced that his team has what it takes to compete this season, via Bill Oram of the Orange County Register:
“We’ve proven to ourselves we are capable of beating anyone in this league when we’re competing and playing defense and sharing the ball on offense,” Walton said. “We have it within us to make that improvement and make it sooner rather than later. A lot of it has to be individual desire to want it now.”
Walton is spot on when he mentions both sharing the ball and defense. When the Lakers begin to struggle to generate good looks, their offense frequently stagnates and devolves into isolation play, which isn’t usually conducive to efficient scoring in the modern NBA. Furthermore, they are currently 29th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, and frequently give up monster games to players that most teams manage to keep in check.
Due to these things, the vibe around the team has greatly changed in a short amount of time. It’s going to be on each player to find the fight within themselves to overcome their current slump and come together as a team once again. December was a tough month for the Lakers, but a new year brings new opportunities to right the ship.