The Los Angeles Lakers were crushed by the San Antonio Spurs Sunday afternoon, 119-98, in a contest that was over a few minutes after it started. The Lakers never made a run, and by the fourth quarter the Spurs were bored, and most of the Lakers’ players had given up. Fans have become accustomed to seeing the team play with little energy, but this was a particularly listless performance.
The culprits were the same as always: Poor shooting, no defense, and little effort.
San Antonio finished with an astounding 37 assists while the Lakers had an anemic 16. The purple and gold trailed by 19 points midway through the second quarter and by twenty points at halftime. Things were so bad that Thomas Robinson, who hadn’t played in forever, entered the game late in the second quarter and looked like the best player on the team.
Here are the three biggest takeaways from the loss to the Thunder:
1. The Good
If there was any good, it was the performance on offense of D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, and Jordan Clarkson, who all shot at least 50 percent from the floor. When these three young players are aggressive and efficient in the same game, it is a positive sign.
For the second consecutive game, Russell was focused and finished with 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Ingram scored a career-high 22 points on an excellent 10-of-15 from the field. His previous high was 17 points, which he achieved three times prior. In this game, Ingram was as aggressive on offense as we have seen him all year.
Clarkson again came off the bench, ceding the starting role as he has all season to Nick Young. Many people thought that Young would be sent elsewhere before the NBA trade deadline, but once again he had the last laugh not only by sticking around but by continuing to start and play significant minutes, for reasons only Luke Walton understands. Clarkson scored 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting and was in his usual attack mode.
2. The Bad
Julius Randle looked like he just woke up from a nap much of the time. While he grabbed 12 rebounds, he finished with only six points on 2-of-9 shooting from the floor and was thoroughly overshadowed by Robinson who showed Randle what it means to play hard.
Ivica Zubac had perhaps his worst game since he started playing in mid-January. He was passive on both ends of the court. He finished with a mere two points and was never really engaged.
Surprisingly, Larry Nance Jr. was also a non-factor and played only 13 minutes. Like Zubac, Nance played as though he were sleepwalking. Tarik Black has struggled since he became a starter, frequently getting into foul trouble and unable to make an impact on the game.
Luol Deng was again a complete non-factor. It is unknown why he is continuing to play, albeit in a reserve role, while Timofey Mozgov has disappeared entirely. Deng is no better and no worse than Mozgov.
In short, with few exceptions, the Lakers played as though the only thing on their mind is summer vacation. Fortunately, they only have to endure 22 more games this season until they are put out of their misery.
3. The Lakers Do Not Play Hard, And The Coaching Staff Has No Answers
Walton is very likable, and he has assembled an excellent staff. But with the season winding down for the Lakers, the truth is staring us in the face: The coaches have failed this season just as badly as the players.
It is one thing that the team rarely wins – they don’t have the talent – but it reflects very poorly on the coaching staff that they can’t even convince the players to compete hard or play a lick of defense. We know the coaches are talking, but it is quite clear that no one is listening.
After all this time, the coaching staff has no answers. It was expected that, at some point this season, the team would have a break-through moment, give a sign that the worst was behind them, and put the league on notice that next year everyone had better watch out for the Lakers. Yet, no corner has been turned and instead, the downward spiral continues.
Magic Johnson has his hands full trying to deal with the mess he has been handed. It is hard to make major changes in the middle of the season, but after four miserable years and with no sign that things are getting any better, Johnson will have to pull a rabbit out of a hat this summer.