It would be an understatement to say the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Denver Nuggets. Instead, it would be more accurate to say the Lakers were thoroughly embarrassed 133-96 by a Nuggets team that was also missing a couple of members from their normal rotation.
Los Angeles had zero answers defensively for a Denver team that seemingly hit every outside shot they took. The Nuggets shot over 50 percent on the night and hit 23 of their 40 attempts from beyond the arc, a recipe for disaster for an already struggling Lakers team.
While there was nothing they could do about some of the shots Denver took, the most disheartening thing was the lack of effort and energy on both ends of the floor. L.A. may be an older team, but it does not give them an excuse to mail in games despite facing large deficits.
Russell Westbrook perhaps said it best when he said that he and the rest of the Lakers have to start playing with more force than their opponents.
“We got to make a decision on if we’re gonna play hard,” Westbrook said after the game. “Sometimes the schemes and how you play doesn’t really matter, you got to just play hard. Sometimes teams are just playing harder than us, simple as that. Even when we’re winning we give up a lot of points, but now it’s showing, especially when we lost games and teams are just putting their head down and going and we got to do a better job of defending.”
When asked about how the Nuggets got so many open looks, Westbrook was just as puzzled as the person asking the question.
“I don’t know, honestly. I don’t know if that’s something that they are trying to do, I’m not sure. But I know we’ve been able to do it and we got to be able to do it if we want to win games, it’s as simple as that. Especially if we’re small, tonight we didn’t start small, but normally, we got to be scrappy and we got to play harder than the other team. We got to get loose balls, we got to be tough and we haven’t shown that.”
Westbrook also added that there is no special remedy to playing harder and that it is just a matter or doing so.
“Playing harder to me is not like something you got to go work out to figure out how to do. To me, it’s a simple fix. Either you play hard or you don’t and in order for us to win games, we got to play harder. And it’s a simple as that. We know that, we’ve seen it, we have put ourselves in position when we had a good stretch of games where we were defending and our defense was trending in the right direction as a kind of overall defensive rating or how they calculate that, but we know now and we understand that when we don’t do it, our chances of winning goes down.
“It doesn’t really matter what you do on the offensive end because if you can’t stop anybody, it doesn’t really matter.”
The star guard has a reputation for leaving it all out on the floor on a nightly basis, and that showed in some second-half spurts where he was a force getting to the rim and playing physical. However, the rest of the roster did a poor job of following suit and it resulted in yet another embarrassing loss that only adds to the mounting pressure to get better quickly.
While Westbrook can say all the right things, it will be up to the team to flip that proverbial switch and finally start showing some grit and tenacity. Hopefully it happens on Monday when the Utah Jazz on Monday.
Russell Westbrook maintains Lakers locker room is fine
Amidst a losing stretch, it is normal to hear some drama in team locker rooms, but Westbrook emphasized that the Lakers are just fine as a group. He also noted that they all understand what they need to do to turn things around.
“Our locker room is fine,” Westbrook said. “We’re not dividing and people are not, there’s not like an end-all, be-all type of situation. We understand what we have to do, it’s just up to us to be able to do it.”
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