Lakers' defense has seriously slipped during slump

Before the season started, Corey Brewer made what sounded like a foolishly bold prediction about the Lakers’ defense. He expected them to be one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.

For the first few weeks, that didn’t look like such a crazy prediction. After ranking last or close to it for the previous four seasons, the Lakers suddenly were among the league’s best defensive teams. They took pride in getting stops and had players willing to buy into what the coaches were asking of them.

That’s changed.

The Lakers have lost eight of their past nine games and during that span their defensive rating has fallen to 109.7, or 25th in the NBA.

Friday night’s 121-106 loss to the Clippers offered yet another example of the Lakers’ defensive slippage. They allowed 35 points in the first quarter.

“To me that’s the number one thing we’ve gotta fix,” Coach Luke Walton said. “It’s what we’ve been able to hang our hat on all year. We get stops on defense, we get out and run. Tonight we got out and run and we scored, but we didn’t play any defense. At least in the second half I thought we competed on defense. First half they moved the ball freely whenever they wanted. But we have to get back to taking pride in being a defensive team first.”

In the month of October the Lakers ranked ninth in defensive rating, giving up 100 points per 100 possessions. In their past nine games the Lakers have given up more than 100 points eight times. However they’re still 12th overall this season at 104.5.

“That’s kind of been the story the last few games on the defensive end,” Brandon Ingram said. “You see us at the beginning of the season we were attacking guys and being really, really strong defensively. It happened in the second half but I think that’s just how we have to come on every time.”

Ball stays home

The Lakers traveled to Houston on Saturday and left their point guard in Los Angeles.

Lonzo Ball is recovering from a left shoulder sprain he suffered Dec. 23 against Portland. The Lakers said he would be evaluated in a week, but that likely will wait until the team returns from this two-game road trip on Jan. 2.

Walton said Friday that Ball normally would have joined the team, but the amount of travel for back-to-back games in Houston and Minneapolis gave the team pause.

As of Friday, Ball had not yet done any shooting and was simply going through treatment.

Meeting helped, says Nance

Forward Larry Nance Jr. sees a need for a spark and thinks the meeting the team had Thursday helped.

“It definitely helped,” Nance said. “We’re not going to go into a meeting and come out and go, ‘Great, we’re the Warriors now.’ There’s none of that going on. In terms of morale, in terms of togetherness, in terms of ‘we’re all in this as a unit, as a team, we’re going to dig ourselves out of this together,’ yeah there was definitely some chemistry built and camaraderie built. Especially in the rough patch of the season, there can be splintering, so I think that was good.”

UP NEXT

AT ROCKETS

When: Sunday, 4 p.m.

On Air: TV – Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes; Radio – 710, 1330

Update: The Rockets have lost five straight games, starting with their loss to the Lakers on Dec. 20. Before that they won 14 games in a row.

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli

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