Lakers focused on improving defense
When the Lakers travel to Oklahoma City on Friday for game one of a four-game road trip, they’re going to need to pack their defense. That may be tough considering they couldn’t find it in their most recent homestand.
The Suns torched the Lakers for 114 points on 52 percent shooting on Tuesday. As offensive-minded as Mike D’Antoni is, the Lakers head coach was upset he didn’t see a sense of urgency defensively.
"It’s almost like spitting blood out there," D’Antoni said. "There’s got to be a little bit more urgency in our game."
Of the Suns 114 points on Tuesday, 56 of them were in the paint, and Phoenix’s starting backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic were able to get to the basket at will.
As a team they’re giving up 47.7 points in the paint per game, which is 29th in the NBA. On their mini two-game homestand, Toronto and Phoenix combined to average 59 points in the paint per game.
"Points in the paint right now are killing us," D’Antoni said. "We just have to be able to be a little stiffer on defense."
The Lakers head coach went on to say his team simply needs to "man up."
The issue is compounded, D’Antoni says, from the team’s inability to connect from the outside.
They Lakers shot 32.1 percent from three against the Raptors and 26.3 against the Suns. For a team that averages 10 three point field goals per game, they made just 14 total in their last two games.
"That’s not a good combo," D’Antoni said.
The team’s issues defensively may only get worse. Even with a healthy group of point guards, they had a hard time keeping small, quick guards out of the lane.
With Thursday’s news of Steve Blake being out for six weeks with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the team now has no healthy point guards and will be forced to play bigger and slower. Steve Nash (back) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring) are also out.
After losing three out of their last four, including three straight at home, D’Antoni says a road trip could be a good thing for his team right now depending on how they bounce back.
He could only hope his team will bounce back well, otherwise it could be a long four-game stretch. The road trip will be bookended with teams that are in the top-10 in the league in points in the paint — Oklahoma City and Memphis.