The Los Angeles Lakers have not been too mentally sharp at times this season.
The Los Angeles Lakers defeat on Sunday was certainly one of the tougher ones to swallow so far in the 2018-2019 campaign. The loss marked the second time Los Angeles fell to the Orlando Magic in a little over a week, which is disappointing.
What made the first game versus Orlando unsightly was that the Lakers simply got run out of the gym. The result in that one was not too close.
Sunday afternoon’s contest was a bit of a different story. While the Lakers were down by double-digits at one point, the squad managed to make a furious comeback in the fourth quarter.
Needless to say, the fourth quarter efforts were too little, too late for the purple and gold.
Various factors contributed to the Lakers’ eighth loss. One of the primary issues was the horrendous defense they played in the middle periods. In quarters two and three, they got outscored by 25 points. 25.
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Orlando’s biggest performer was undoubtedly Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic stuffed the box score with 31 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and three blocks.
Despite Vucevic’s huge afternoon, it was still a very winnable contest for the Lakers. That is what made the second one versus the Magic a bit more bothersome.
Areas that really dented the Lakers’ hopes were the missed throws and careless turnovers. Frankly, this is not the first time these categories have haunted them this season.
As Dan Duangdao of Lakers Nation reminds us, the team failed to convert 11 free throws on Sunday. Additionally, the Lakers committed a total of 18 turnovers in the loss.
Simply put, that is usually not a formula for success. Via Duangdao, Luke Walton stressed that his guys have to start “valuing” the rock in the time to come.
“We’ve got to get back to valuing the basketball,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said. “I thought we played really well in the first and fourth quarters, thought we played well enough in the first half to have a good-size lead. They had 10 or 11 more shot attempts than we did and we had 14 turnovers at the half.”
The free throws speak for themselves. When eleven freebies are not cashed in, that is going to hurt in what was ultimately a down-to-the-wire sort of game. It is not like the Lakers were blown out; a few more makes would have been a difference maker.
It is the type of thing that should not even require a lot of thought. They are called “free” throws for an obvious reason, but the Lakers consistently struggle at the charity stripe.
That being said, perhaps some extra practice after practice is in order?! I would not object to that proposal since repetition tends to have an uncanny way of producing better outcomes.
Upon doing so, practice will increase the team’s mental fortitude in real game situations. Less thinking will go into the shots, and that spike in positivity will generally spur more makes.
However, the larger issue revolving around the Lakers is the turnovers. This department has seemed to be a glaring problem for the Lakers for several years now. After yesterday’s game was in the books, the team ranked 26th in the league in turnovers (15.9/game).
By virtue of committing so many turnovers, possessions are being forfeited. After a point, it gets to be draining and hard to rebound from.
Walton recognizes this and elaborated on why so many mistakes can be costly in the grand scheme of things. Per Lakers Nation, the head coach shared the following.
“Turnovers and missed free throws, we’re killing ourselves… You lose a close game, you miss 11 free throws, those are free points. We’ve got to step up and knock those down.
“We have 18 turnovers, they shoot an extra 14 times than we do in a game. Even though we’re making our shots and shooting a high percentage, it’s tough to overcome when another team gets that many more shot attempts than you do.”
Indeed, turnovers make it an even greater challenge to get over the hump, so to speak. They really are a killer to use Walton’s vernacular.
Elements like shooting a good percentage become utterly irrelevant when the rock is not taken care of. Being sloppy destroys momentum and the overall ebb and flow of a game.
Surely enough, it is impossible to play perfectly clean, flawless basketball. The Lakers, though, need to at least find more of a happy medium between “flawless” and what they have been doing so often.
Their most recent loss is not the first time they have virtually given a game away this season. In doing multiple favors for the opponent, you’re definitely not helping yourself a whole lot.
Thankfully, as Virgil Villanueva of ClutchPoints says, the Lakers remain one of the league’s hotter teams. The purple and gold have claimed seven out of their previous 10 games, which is not too shabby.
Nonetheless, the Lakers will need to clean up these couple trouble areas to increase their odds of success in the future. As Sunday’s game showed, the team will not always be able to get away with sloppiness and failure to capitalize on opportunities.
This season has proven that the little things can make or break a team in the end. Thus, one can only hope that as time progresses, L.A. will get better in these facets of the game.
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