Worn-out Lakers need adjustment, especially from long range
The Lakers are worn out. And it’s more than tired legs.
After losing their fourth consecutive game Wednesday, a blowout in Utah against the league’s best team, veteran Markieff Morris said the Lakers are dealing with mental fatigue too.
“This is the most basketball that I’ve ever played in my life — this season and last season combined. It’s an unbelievable amount of basketball we all are playing,” Morris said. “Mentally it gets draining — especially when you lose.”
It’s been a slow leak that’s been happening for weeks, before the team lost Anthony Davis to a calf injury and Dennis Schroder to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Signs of their current predicament surfaced during the Lakers’ seven-game winning streak.
“It shouldn’t be easy,” Morris said. “We shouldn’t ride through the season easy because we need stuff like this just to level us out, to know what our weakness is and work on our weakness.”
One weakness has been easier to spot than any other — the Lakers’ shooting.
NBA releases the second half of the regular-season schedule. The Lakers play just three road games in March.
“We have to make shots from the perimeter,” LeBron James said. “It’s that simple. And we know that. But we can’t put more added pressure on ourselves. Like I’m not. … I know me, personally, I haven’t shot the ball as I did in the first 20 games of the season, but I haven’t put more added pressure on myself because I know I’ve put the work in.
“I hope my teammates do the same — don’t put too much added pressure on themselves.”
While the Jazz shot the Lakers out of the game Wednesday night, the Lakers made only eight of 33 attempts from three-point range. It was the seventh time in their last nine games the Lakers shot less than 30% from beyond the arc.
“We have to make some shots from the exterior,” James acknowledged. “We’re really good in the paint. We do a good job with that, but we’re not making threes. We’re not getting to the free-throw line. And it’s been very difficult on our team to score.”
There’s hope Schroder can play Friday when the Lakers host struggling Portland at Staples Center, an unquestioned lift for a team looking for one.
“Dennis carries a big load for us. He’s a big minutes guy,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Really moves the needle for us on the defensive end with his containment and pressure, sets the tone for us. And obviously the versatility he brings to the table offensively with the ability to bring the ball up and have another ballhandler alongside ‘Bron — but also carry the scoring load as well. I think we missed him on both sides of the ball.”
There are 39 games between now and the point where the Lakers will ultimately be judged — the postseason. And they’ve got to figure out a way to fight through the fatigue to make the most of the opportunity the present provides.
“Our whole preparation is preparing for the playoffs. We see the Jazz, we know they beat our ass tonight. But in the playoffs it’s a different story,” Morris said. “It’s like the past couple teams. But we’re in a situation now where it’s new to all of us. So it’s not supposed to click right away. It’s supposed to take time. It’s supposed to challenge us. It’s supposed to feel like our back is against the wall. And everybody needs that.
“It will bring out your true self when you’ve got to fight when your back is against the wall when you lose a couple games. It will bring out your true self.”
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