After losing their first two games of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers have gone 5-1 in their last six games. Who was that lone loss in that stretch? The Oklahoma City Thunder. That should have been a Laker victory. The Lakers were up by 26 at one point and squandered the lead in the second half and lost. The Lakers should have a six-game winning streak, but don’t because they lost focus in the second half.
Why is this particularly important? Well, it’s important to beat the “weaker teams” in the league as the Lakers prepare for the gauntlet in the West. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s tough to win in the NBA. However, the Lakers should have enough talent to put these teams away.
The Lakers are finding their rhythm and building that chemistry with an entirely new roster. Bumps on the road are expected, which is why it’s even more Important to rack up the wins against the younger teams. Squandering a 26 point lead points to a team who is having big stretches of horrid defense.
Frank Vogel has been the architect of an elite defense for his first two years with the Lakers. He’s had a defensive reputation since his Indiana days when the Pacers would face the LeBron James-led Miami Heat. That has not been the case to start this season. The Lakers have looked awful on the defensive end for most of the year. Teams have been scoring at will against the Lakers. After a game where they played good defense against a young Rockets team, they then gave up 75 points to them in the first half the following game. That is just simply unacceptable.
The Lakers did lose extremely valuable defenders this off-season like Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but this is not about talent alone. The effort and focus has been lackluster and the Lakers are making it harder on themselves. You have to trust Vogel and staff will improve their defense as the season goes on, but it’s been tough to watch.
Offensively, the Lakers have been averaging 113.4 points per game. Not much to complain about there, but some of the lineups have been questionable. Granted, it’s still early, but Vogel must know DeAndre Jordan is simply not the player he used to be. Also, Austin Reaves has been an absolute delight to watch. The Lakers are better when he’s on the floor and he shouldn’t be losing any minutes any time soon. Shout out to the scouting department for yet another gem.
The Lakers want to protect their stars given the injury troubles they had last season. However, this does not mean they need to let their foot off the gas. The Lakers did just that against the Thunder and as they prepare to play them tonight, that has to be in the back of their heads. Let that serve as a reminder for the rest of the season.
The Thunder come into tonight’s game with only one win this season. Yes, let me remind you yet again it was against the Lakers. We know Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is going to perform; he averages 22.9 points and five boards per game. Another youngster to look out for is Josh Giddey, who has been playing really well. He finished with 18 points and 10 boards in their lone win against the purple and gold. We can’t fail to mention Darius Bazley, who tallied 20 points, including one notable basket that really ticked off Russell Westbrook. It’s going to be interesting to see how Russ comes out for this game knowing the previous matchup ended with him being ejected.
Lastly, LeBron missed the last contest and will do the same today. James is dealing with a rectus abdominis strain, which is an ab injury. It hurts to lose LeBron, but the Lakers have enough talent to take care of business. Westbrook will now be the primary ball handler for most of the game, so expect a big game from him. Facing his former team in front of his hometown fans, this could be Westbrook’s first signature game with the Lakers.