Los Angeles Lakers: Unpacking Their 8-Game Losing Streak
Struggles on both ends of the floor have set the upstart Los Angeles Lakers back to the tune of eight straight losses.
It’s been a cold December in Los Angeles.
The post-Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers seemed ahead of schedule in the months of October and November. The team went 10-10 during that span, ending November tied with the Portland Trail Blazers for eighth in the West.
However, the Lakers have reeled off eight consecutive losses since that promising start. What has gone wrong for head coach Luke Walton‘s bunch?
Cold shooting is the first facet that can easily be singled out for the Lakers’ struggles. Los Angeles shot 45.6 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from three-point range over the first six weeks of the season.
Those percentages have dropped to 41.5 percent and 31.4 percent, respectively, over the last two weeks. The power outage is apparent nearly across-the-board amongst the team’s top nine minute-earners.
|Larry Nance Jr.||60.2||50.0||-10.2|
The hardest-hit players over the last eight games have been in the frontcourt. Center Timofey Mozgov has lost his touch from mid-range, shooting 31.1 percent worse from just outside the paint.
Power forward Julius Randle has been neutralized at the rim, shooting 15.6 percent worse under the basket.
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Larry Nance continues to be the best shooter among the Lakers core, but even his percentage has dropped. Nance’s troubles come from taking and making fewer shots in the paint outside of the charge circle.
In the backcourt, D’Angelo Russell has struggled inside the perimeter since returning from a knee injury three games ago. Russell is 3-of-16 on two-pointers this month.
Even rookie forward Brandon Ingram, already struggling in his transition to the NBA, is shooting marginally worse from the field.
Deng improved his scoring average from 6.6 to 10.3 points per game from October and November to December. He has scored double-digits over the last three games, including his 22-point outburst against the New York Knicks on Dec. 11.
Deng also put up 18 points against the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 3.
Dec 9, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Lou Williams (23) defended by Phoenix Suns forward Alan Williams (15) during a basketball game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
2014-15 Sixth Man of the Year Williams is making his case for a second award. He was already averaging 16.7 points per game off the bench entering December. But he has put his scoring into hyperdrive as the rest of the team has fallen by the wayside.
Williams scored 40 points against the Grizzlies. It was only the second time in his career reaching the 40-point plateau and four short of his career high. He also had games of 38 (Dec. 5 vs. the Utah Jazz) and 35 points (Dec. 9 vs. the Phoenix Suns) this month.
Those outputs have kept the Lakers in many games, but Williams can only do so much.
The Lakers’ collective shooting woes are particularly problematic because their offense was the only way they could compete in games. The fact they went 10-10 while shooting around the league-average of 45.0 percent is only somewhat coincidental.
Their bad shooting this month spotlights the bad defense they’ve played all season.
The Los Angeles Lakers have allowed 111.0 points per game this season, fourth-most in the NBA. The amount of points surrendered has been consistent. However, the location where the Lakers have conceded those points has see-sawed.
The Lakers gave up a league-high 68.6 percent on field goals at the rim over the first six weeks of the season. They have managed to drop that down to 65.2 percent over the last two weeks, sixth-highest in the NBA.
Conversely, the Lakers tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the seventh-best defensive three-point percentage in October and November (33.9 percent). That has shot up to 39.5 percent in December, sixth-worst in the league.
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Los Angeles came into the month looking to clamp down on their opponent’s high-percentage shots. They do this by packing in the paint whenever the ball goes inside. The problem is that the ball quickly kicks back out once the Lakers are drawn inside.
L.A. has given up 10 or more made three-pointers in all eight games this month.
Notable shooters such as Memphis’s Troy Daniels (31 points on 6-of-12 shooting from three) and the Houston Rockets‘s Eric Gordon (26 points, 8-of-12) have feasted off of the Lakers’ recent issues with defending the arc.
It has been an arduous December for the Los Angeles Lakers, but it has not been without its share of highlights. Their Dec. 12 loss at the Sacramento Kings saw Luke Walton get ejected while berating a referee for missing a hard foul committed against Julius Randle.
Their Dec. 14 loss at the Brooklyn Nets featured an early candidate for dunk of the year. Larry Nance Jr. threw down a ferocious slam on Nets center Brook Lopez. It was so intense, even the Brooklyn bench had to react to it.
These two instances are small signs that the Los Angeles Lakers players and coaches are still competing. That is half the battle when facing such a long losing streak. The other half will be re-gaining their respective shooting touches on offense and finding balance on defense.
However, that is followed by a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers the next night. Such is life on the road in the NBA.
Losing games, especially eight consecutively, is never fun for players. But it’s times like these that a young team like the Los Angeles Lakers has to endure in order to become future contenders.