Surely the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t blow another large lead to the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder, right? Well sure enough, despite Anthony Davis‘ best efforts, the Lakers are having to answer the same questions that plagued them after their first humiliating loss to OKC.
Eight nights after blowing a 26-point lead and falling to the winless Thunder, LA allowed a 19-point lead to slip away at Staples Center in a 107-104 loss. After the game, Davis tried to explain what went wrong for the Lakers, but did so without acknowledging some serious underlying problems.
Anthony Davis tried to explain what happened to the Lakers
Even without LeBron James, who is set to miss the next week at minimum, there was little excuse for the Lakers losing to the Thunder again. After all, in their first matchup, James was out with a sore ankle. So Davis, the de facto captain of the ship in LBJ’s absence, tried to explain the painful defeat.
“Defensively we were all over the place,” Davis said after the game per ESPN. “I feel like they were waiting on our coverages and were just picking us apart.”
“For some reason, this team comes in every time [and] they make shots against us,” Davis added. “They made 15 threes again tonight.”
The Thunder went 15-of-41 from beyond the arc in the first matchup and 15-of-37 on Thursday. They have failed to reach that number of successful 3-pointers in any of their other six games, all of which were losses.
Additionally, Davis also revealed he sprained his thumb in the loss. The 6-foot-10 All-Star managed to play through the injury, scoring 29 points and pulling down 18 rebounds. But he also alluded to having questionable availability for Saturday’s road game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
“We’ll see how it feels,” Davis told Silver Screen & Roll.
The Lakers didn’t lose just because the Thunder made shots
Any time a star player starts up a sentence with, “For some reason” after a loss, it’s never a good sign. And while Davis acknowledged general defense as a reason for getting outscored 35-24 in the fourth quarter, LA’s problems go beyond its opponent having a hot hand from three.
The Lakers were out-rebounded in each of their first five contests. Since then, they’ve won the rebound battle twice and tied OKC on Thursday. But as a whole, LA is still struggling with fundamentals like rebounding and boxing out. Their defensive rebounding percentage remains the fourth-worst in the NBA with a league-worst defensive box-out percentage.
Beyond that, LeBron’s absence highlights some flaws in roster construction. With the King out and Trevor Ariza still recovering from ankle surgery, Carmelo Anthony is the only backcourt player taller than 6-foot-5. For reference, Oklahoma City’s guard combo of Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey stand at 6-6 and 6-8, respectively. This puts LA at a huge disadvantage when guarding taller playmakers who can create their own shot.
Even if they’re not admitting it, LA is also regretting their center combination of DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard. The two big men have lost a step on both ends, as head coach Frank Vogel was only able to play them a combined 22 minutes against the Thunder. Because the Lakers had no choice but to go small and put Davis at the 5, OKC center Derrick Favors went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Can Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers survive without LeBron?
No one on the planet would dare say the Lakers are better off without James than when the four-time MVP is on the court. But it’s hard to argue the Purple and Gold shouldn’t have beaten a Thunder team whose six losses came by an average of 16.6 points.
Davis is still in his prime, proving so with a monster stat line on Thursday. Russell Westbrook has cut down on his turnovers, racking up no more than four after a season-high 10 in his OKC homecoming. Rajon Rondo and Wayne Ellington, two veterans who have missed time for LA, are back in uniform. And Anthony is continuing his scorching hot start, burying another five threes and placing himself third in the league with 32 triples.
Even with injuries to Ariza, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and now James, LA’s overall collection of talent is enough to beat poor teams and enough to stay competitive against contenders. Vogel’s club should not be handing the Thunder their only two wins of the season and pulling out nail-biting finishes against the Spurs and Rockets.
Saturday’s contest against an up-and-down Portland team led by superstar Damian Lillard will provide a good test for who the Lakers really are. Because so far, the returns have been massively underwhelming.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.