Through the first month of NBA basketball, the Los Angeles Lakers have distanced themselves from much of the league.
Even with an 11-4 record (1st in the Western Conference), the Lakers have coasted for much of the season thus far. There’s an apparent lack of energy, which hasn’t necessarily hurt them until now.
Los Angeles went up as much as 19 against the Golden State Warriors on Monday night, looking every bit like the Western Conference’s best team. The Lakers coasted en route to the lead, as it has often made big runs look easy this season. But against a team like the Warriors, coasting can be costly.
The Lakers blew their enormous lead by continuing to coast. The lack of energy lasted far too long, and by the time they actually attempted to win the game, the Warriors had already given them an uppercut.
“Nah,” LeBron James simply put when asked if there’s a “human nature complacency” going on that affected the Lakers’ play Monday night.
Though James may not acknowledge it when asked by the media, the coasting issue is a genuine problem.
Why the Los Angeles Lakers’ coasting phenomenon could come back to bite:
The phenomenon has led them to win a few games that were too close to comfort, and suffer all four of their losses by an achievable amount (typically a single short run.) These lapses are the difference in Talen-Horton Tucker getting a ton of tick by the fourth quarter and James and Anthony Davis trying to force a late run.
The two are obviously the Los Angeles Lakers’ go-to options in closing moments given their superstardom, but when they put themselves in a constant cycle of lackadaisical play as they did the other day, it’s going to be hard to close out games.
The Lakers’ superstar duo didn’t exactly turn in performances that would help their team survive. Each of them shot 6-for-16 from the field and James, who was a -9 in the game, struggled to close the game.
It was play from James’ that is similar to what fans saw in some of the losses the Lakers took in the 2020 NBA playoffs. Though it can be argued that no player is perfect and no team will win each game, that is not the case for Monday’s game.
Not only could James not close, but the Lakers virtually had the game won. Large leads are more expendable than ever with the value of the 3-point line and pace of the game, but had the Lakers played with more energy, another day goes by without the Lakers being questioned about if they get complacent.
“Controllable,” was how Davis described it. “There wasn’t nothing that (Golden State) really did. Our rotations were bad, getting backdoored, wide-open shots on the perimeter, wasn’t getting back in transition. … Every time we did that, seemed like they made us pay.”
The game was every bit controllable, but to succeed the Lakers must take that control earlier, or do a better of keeping it when they have it. This likely won’t be the only time the Lakers will let a game from them, as it doesn’t seem like the contentment with leads will end soon.
Though things are out of whack all around the NBA, the Los ANgeles Lakers are still the best team around for the most part. If they want to retain that label, they’ll have to take on midseason form soon.