The Los Angeles Lakers returned to winning days on Friday, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-101 after a solid defensive showing.
The defense has been an issue for L.A. early in the season. The Lakers allow the second-most points per game in the NBA (116.5), which particularly showed in the nightmare 123-115 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
But against Cleveland, L.A.’s defense had promising stints when it appeared rejuvenated. The Lakers gave up the least points since the start of the season and kept the Cavaliers to just 16 points in the fourth quarter, which enabled them to come back from behind and snatch the win.
An early injury wave contributed to L.A.’s slow start to the season. The Lakers are still coping without two important defensive pieces, Talen Horton-Tucker and Trevor Ariza. They also lost LeBron James to an ankle injury for two games recently.
Considering the circumstances, Russell Westbrook thinks the Lakers are doing a solid job in weathering the storm while also coming together as a team.
“Everybody on the outside looking in wants things to click immediately, but that’s just not realistic,” he said.
“We’ve still got guys that are out and in and out of the rotation. Our job is to be able to fight adversity but to do that we have to be together. That’s just what Coach [Vogel] is talking about throughout the game. If we see something, communicate with each other, make sure we’re lifting each other up and holding each other accountable.
“If we continue to do that, we’re moving in the right direction and keeping our swag up. That’s something that I’m big on is keeping our swag and keeping our spirits high. We’re going to see what happens throughout the game, but if our swag is up and we’re playing our best, nobody can really do anything to us.”
As far as personal swag on the court goes, Westbrook definitely isn’t losing that, via Bleacher Report:
Russ couldn't help himself when G'd Up came on last night ???? pic.twitter.com/HSl6CHwurS
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 30, 2021
Westbrook was satisfied with the Lakers’ defense in the win over Cleveland, saying that holding the Cavaliers to just 16 points in the final period shows L.A. can indeed make stops. The 32-year-old guard can also see improvements in the team’s chemistry on the floor.
“We’re moving in the right direction and that’s all we can ask for,” Westbrook said.
James wants Lakers and himself to limit turnovers
James recognizes the issues with the Lakers’ defense, highlighting the importance of film sessions to fix the defensive woes. He cited carelessness with the ball as the issue L.A. — and the four-time NBA champion himself — need to address quickly.
“Turnovers. When we don’t turn the ball over, we’re a pretty good team,” James said after the victory over Cleveland.
“When we turn the ball over, it definitely takes the sails out of us and we have to do a better job of that, especially me for sure.”
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