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Lakers working again to improve defense with Anthony Davis still sidelined

Lakers forward LeBron James tries to disrupt a pass by Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson.
Lakers forward LeBron James tries to disrupt a pass by Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson on Sunday at Crypto.com Arena.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

The last two games have shown the Lakers that their defense is an issue again.

So, with a practice and a film session Friday before they boarded a flight to Denver for Saturday night’s game against the Nuggets, the Lakers worked physically and mentally on ways to correct their defensive shortcomings.

“Hopefully we have an improved defensive performance,” coach Frank Vogel told reporters on Zoom. “Our defense has been terrible the last two games. We learned that more than anything else.

“There’s a reason we didn’t win the last two games and we had a spirited session in the film and on the court, in terms of being better on that side of the ball.”

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The Lakers gave up 127 points in a loss to Memphis on Sunday. They gave up 125 points in a loss to Sacramento on Wednesday.

The Grizzlies shot 54.7% from the field, 36.7% from three-point range, and scored 62 points in the paint. The Kings shot 55.1% from the field, 36.7% from three-point range, and scored 70 points in the paint.

Vogel explained how “spirited” the film session was for the Lakers.

“All the breakdowns of the Kings game,” he said. “Gave up 70 points in the paint. You’re not going to win if you do that. So, called every single one of them out and showed all the ways they can be better.”

The Lakers surrender an average of 112.8 points per game, ranking them 26th in the NBA.

Despite missing Anthony Davis, who will have his sprained left knee “evaluated early next week,” Vogel said the Lakers can be better on defense.

Davis, who has been out for four weeks, is the Lakers’ anchor on defense, but Vogel said he wants to see “extra effort and disposition” from his team.

“That’s the biggest thing,” Vogel said. “There’s a lot of details that go into our coverages, but five guys being really locked in, playing with focus and intensity isn’t happening … on enough possessions. Without getting into all the details of our coverages, there’s just a lot of areas that we were poor at.”

Johnson’s contract set to expire

The second 10-day contract Stanley Johnson signed with the Lakers is set to expire after Saturday night’s game, but the two sides are expected to have conversations about the forward’s future.

Johnson has started five of the eight games he has played with the Lakers and has been impressive on defense as a small-ball center. The former Santa Ana Mater Dei High star has averaged 5.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in 21.3 minutes.

“Hopefully I’ve shown I can be consistent, like a good teammate, bring energy on the court, just a good professional overall,” Johnson said. “Obviously, the goal is to get on a team and obviously stay long term. That’s a goal of mine. If it happens, it happens and I’ll be very, very excited about it.

“I think the team’s gonna be really, really solid and I’ve enjoyed myself while I’ve been here, honestly. And we kind of go from there. We have a game tomorrow, I’ll deal with the game, then after the game, we’ll deal with that as well when it comes.”

UP NEXT

AT DENVER

When: 6 p.m. PST, Saturday

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330.

Update: Vogel called Denver‘s Nikola Jokic, the reigning most valuable player, “the most unique player in the NBA.” The 6-foot-11 center is 11th in the NBA in scoring (25.5), second in rebounds (14), seventh in assists (7), second in double-doubles (30) and first in player efficiency rating (32.64). Jokic is shooting 56.6% from the field, 35.6% from three-point range.


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