LOS ANGELES — The Lakers’ defense has been dreadful.
In the 13 games since LeBron James returned from his groin injury, the Lakers have the worst defense in the NBA, giving up 116.3 points per 100 possessions. Their effort has been up and down, but they have lacked basic defensive recognition and cohesion.
It got to the point Monday night in a devastating loss to the Clippers that Kyle Kuzma shoved LeBron James to try to get him to close out on Danilo Gallinari, the Clippers best shooter (and leading scorer on the night).
This is on Kuzma, not LeBron. Watch the clip and you see LeBron was guarding Montrezl Harrell, Kuzma is on Gallinari and just falls asleep and lets him get open. Then Kuzma shoves LeBron to get him out there, even though it’s not LeBron’s man.
Kuzma would later leave the game with an ankle injury that, while the X-rays were negative, coach Luke Walton said would probably sideline him for at least a game. Another injury to a banged up Lakers’ team.
The Lakers are 4-9 since LeBron came back from his groin injury, 2-4 since the All-Star break when LeBron “activated” playoff mode. The defense is the reason — and the reason their playoff dreams are all but dead.