The Lakers looked old and dead-legged getting blown out by the Timberwolves Friday night. The Lakers faded in the second half and looked tired after overtime wins in their two games earlier in the week (Miami and Charlotte). Minnesota dominated the third quarter 40-12 — the Lakers shot 4-of-21 in the third — and never looked back.
After the game, Anthony Davis was frustrated with this loss and the season and vented to the press. Here are his quotes, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“We sucked,” Davis said when asked about the third. “No defense. Can’t score. That’s not just this third quarter, it’s every third quarter we’ve played this season. We come out slow, lackadaisical offensively and defensively. We got to get it together. Why? I can’t tell you. But we got to do a better job…
“We got to decide who we want to be. A championship team? That’s not us right now,” Davis said. “We’re not winning a championship the way we’re playing. We got to be better, and we got to care more for our wins at home. Wins in general. That was embarrassing.”
Davis spoke for a lot of Lakers’ fans with that rant.
The preseason Western Conference favorites are 7-6 on the season, but with a negative net rating (-2.2), 15th on defense and 22nd on offense, and have played the last five games (and seven overall this season) without LeBron James (3-4 in those contests).
Davis is right, and it wasn’t just in the ugly loss to the Timberwolves — the Lakers have not looked like contenders. They’ve looked average.
It’s time to be concerned about the Lakers. Roster changes turned this team from one that won a title thanks to its defense into one where the foundation is on the offensive end — and they have not been sharp enough on the attack. Russell Westbrook puts up numbers and has some good games, but he is not scoring efficiently and his lack of jump shot continues to lead to fit issues. Carmelo Anthony is putting up numbers on offense (16.1 points a game off the bench), but good teams target him on defense. Frank Vogel is still figuring out rotations, but these Lakers miss the depth they let go (Alex Caruso) or traded away (for Westbrook) this offseason. The Lakers are 3-0 in overtime and winning close games, but good teams don’t win close games, they are not in close games.
That said, it’s not time to panic. There is a storied list of LeBron James teams that started slowly and came back to win a title (or at least make the Finals), and the Lakers are still outscoring teams when LeBron is on the court. (LeBron’s return appears to be coming sooner rather than later, but there is no timetable.) Other Lakers such as Trevor Ariza and Talen Horton-Tucker will get healthy as well. Westbrook has started slowly the past couple of seasons only to come on in the second half. The Lakers are still over .500 and in the mix in the West.
But they have played one of the easier schedules in the NBA so far, and things will only get tougher in the coming weeks.
Davis is correct, this Lakers team needs to find its stride, or they will look worse than average soon.