Lakers are 2-10 after fifth loss in a row, but they might not be at rock bottom
At least with rock bottom, there’s a finality when things could not possibly get worse.
For the Lakers? There are still 70 more games to find out that they’re probably not already there.
If that’s harsh, consider Friday night’s debacle — a 120-114 loss to Sacramento that highlighted so many of the reasons why this team is eight games under .500 less than a month into its season.
In the aftermath of their latest defeat, one star, Anthony Davis, observed that his team’s basketball IQ was hit or miss at best. Another star, Russell Westbrook, whose mistakes helped trigger a game-changing run at the end of the second quarter, hustled out of the building without speaking to the media.
Coach Darvin Ham spoke about a need for attention to detail, valuing the precision required to execute and the “biggest thing” in being accountable. The Lakers’ other big offseason acquisition, Patrick Beverley, sat stone-faced in an empty locker room and declined to speak to the media.
Both players had heavy hands in the Lakers’ problems Friday, Westbrook undoing so many of the positives he brought to the game with 90 seconds of inexplicable basketball that allowed the Kings back into the game. And Beverley, the defensive stopper the team traded for this summer, couldn’t help the team get stops down the stretch while continuing to underwhelm offensively.
Lonnie Walker IV returns and scores 19 points, but it’s not enough for the Lakers to overcome not having LeBron James in a 120-114 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
That LeBron James sat out because of a groin injury should’ve been inconsequential. This game, they gave it away.
“We’ve got to put some wins together, got to start winning — ASAP,” Davis said.
Asked about the level of personal accountability happening inside his team’s locker room, Davis said guys are acknowledging mistakes and that’s good. But fixing them? That’s what the Lakers actually need.
“There’s a lot of, like, ‘My bads,’ which is good,” Davis said. “But we can’t have a lot of ‘my bads,’ especially during the course of the game. So guys are seeing what we’re doing wrong on film and we talk about it. ‘That’s on me. I got to do it. I got to get this rebound. I got to box out. I got to send him over the screen.’ Whatever. ‘Set a better screen,’ whatever the instance might be.
“But a lot of times, those are the plays that are killing us. So the ‘my bads’ are good so guys are knowing of their mistakes, but close-game situations, down the stretch, there’s some ‘my bad’ situations that we can’t have. It kind of costs us the game.”
Davis then mentioned the stretch at the end of the first half when the Lakers saw a 13-point lead get cut all the way to four in less than 90 seconds. While he didn’t name Westbrook, the former MVP was in the middle of all the trouble.
He scored but then was quickly given a technical foul for taunting. On the next possession, after complaining to the official about the technical, he dribbled the ball away.
Then a bad pass by Westbrook sent the Kings on the break. He stopped it with an intentional foul, now punishable with a free throw and continued possession, which allowed the Kings the chance to score four more points.
Westbrook did finish with 21 points, making three three-point shots including a big one in the fourth quarter, and 11 assists. But like so much of his Lakers tenure, the volume of his mistakes was turned up so loudly that they couldn’t be ignored.
Still, Ham continued to mostly praise Westbrook.
“I thought there were some unfortunate plays that he wouldn’t normally make. But if I had to do it all over again, I would put him in the same situations,” Ham said. “I thought he was huge for us tonight. Provided a huge boost at the three-point line. Overall, with his point total. And there were times he pushed the pace. There were times he really put pressure on the paint. Found some guys for easy looks.
The NBA and Nike unveiled their 2022-23 City Edition jerseys on Thursday. Some are works of art, some not so much. We ranked them all.
“But it’s tough. I’ve got certain things that stick out in my mind, but without going over the film, I can’t really get into detail. But I will say this, again, if I had to do it all over again, he’d be in the game, for sure — and in those situations.”
Without naming names, Davis’ answer to a question about basketball IQ was particularly damning.
“We have our moments. Have our moments where our IQ is high and our moments when our IQ was very low — from everyone. I think we’ve got to do a better job of having an awareness of time-score situation,” Davis said. “For example, like the end of the first half, they’re going on a run, 6-0 run — ‘slow it down. We’ve got to get a quality look.’ Even if you miss, they’re not getting out in transition. Going into the fourth quarter, we start the fourth quarter with two turnovers. Things like that where it’s like … we’ve got to play winning basketball.
“Especially the way we’re playing, our record, we damn near have to play perfect basketball. A lot of times, it’s self-inflicted, which is the most frustrating.”
Self-inflicted, though, implies the Lakers will be able to stop doing these things, which, through 12 games, have been crippling.
Currently, the Lakers own the league’s 30th-ranked offense and the 18th-ranked defense with the 26th-rated field-goal percentage and the worst three-point percentage. The last time they were .500 was 46 games ago.
Since Jan. 25 last season, the Lakers have won only 11 times.
“We got to figure it out,” Davis said. “We got a lot of basketball left, so we can turn it around. But, I mean, it’s been tough. It’s been tough. And I’m pretty sure all these other guys that came here didn’t expect this either.”
Yet considering the losing started 10 months ago, maybe everyone should have expected this. Ham has recently termed this part of the season as an “excavation” so he and his team can put down a proper foundation. They should, if all goes well, be much healthier next week. The schedule should, in some ways, begin to lighten.
Can any of that matter if the team is playing like this?
“The biggest thing is you can’t get discouraged, man,” Ham said. “This is a challenge. It’s not easy by any means. But it’s one we’re up for and one we’re gonna keep trying to plow through.”
As the losses and the frustrations pile up, that belief gets more and more smothered.
Unless something changes, it’ll eventually get snuffed out.
All things Lakers, all the time.
Get all the Lakers news you need in Dan Woike's weekly newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.