Mark your calendars: nine days into a seven-game series, defending champions Los Angeles Lakers showed signs of vulnerability this season by losing 107-92 to the Detroit Pistons.
Los Angeles scored just 34 points in the second half – the lowest number since LeBron James joined the franchise in 2018 – and was outscored 25-14 in the fourth half by a Pistons team that had the second worst scoring record in the league at 4-14.
The Lakers were unbeaten for nearly seven minutes – from 8:40 in the fourth quarter to 1:50 – while the Pistons led by 1 through 1:17. Los Angeles fell behind twice with 0:12 to play, while Detroit took control of the game.
“I think defensively we just weren’t where we should have been,” said Kyle Kuzma, whose 22 points and 10 rebounds were marred by the Lakers’ late collapse. “Individually, everyone made mistakes and that hurt the team’s defense a little bit.”
The team’s defense, ranked No. 1 in the NBA on Thursday, played without Anthony Davis, last season’s Defensive Player of the Year, who sat out with a bruise on his right thigh.
Whatever the explanation was for this poor performance, whether it was Davis’ absence, the accumulation of fatigue along the way, or the challenge of back-to-back matches, James didn’t want to hear it.
“I mean, we still have games to play, work to do,” he said. “We have to keep getting better, and you can’t know how many days you’re going to be on the road or anything like that. That’s what every team does. Every team takes a long trip. We’re professionals.
“We need to keep our minds and bodies as cool as possible so we can play a game of about 48 minutes. Obviously we haven’t done that in the last couple of games and we just have to be better on Saturday.
Coach Frank Vogel challenged the Lakers squad to not miss a game in a row all season, and that is still part of the team’s culture this year. Los Angeles was behind for more than a quarter of the season before it failed and lost to Detroit the night after it lost in Philadelphia.
The two defeats also overshadowed the Lakers’ perfect 10-0 away record at the beginning of the season, which is a franchise record. They now stand at 10-2, with games in Boston on Saturday and Atlanta on Monday to close out the trip.
Although no one sounded the alarm, both Kuzma and James complained that the Lakers are still trying to find a series of rotations and have to experiment with new lineups due to the lack of practice time during games.
“We are a brand new team,” Mr. Kuzma said. “We’re playing as a team of 14 people. It’s a tough situation. We’re obviously working on it. The coaching staff is trying to figure out the rotations, what works best, which players can play in certain lineups. And that’s the essence of the season we’re in.
Kuzma presented the 10,000-foot perspective by saying that defeats – even bad ones like Thursday’s – are “just the beauty of the journey” and that the regular season should be a rehearsal anyway to fix problems before the playoffs. And with the Lakers road trip lasting more than a week and a half, he acknowledges that the ongoing trip is a real challenge. “It’s still a pandemic here,” he said.
Vogel blamed himself and said he needed to do a better job of putting his players in a position where they could succeed, but in the end he saw the evening as something that would not hinder his team.
“Everything will be fine,” Mr. Vogel said. “Nights like this happen in a long season. It’s all going to be okay. We’ll come back. None of us are happy with the way we played tonight, but we’re going to bounce back.
Frequently asked questions
Did the Los Angeles Lakers get the grant money?
The Lakers have applied for a loan under the Small Business Administration’s payment protection program, part of the federal government’s $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package … The Lakers remain fully committed to supporting both our employees and our community.” ESPN was the first to report on the Lakers’ decision.
How much money did the Los Angeles Lakers get from the government?
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers have returned about $4.6 million they received from a federal government program designed to help small businesses cope with economic pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN said Monday in a statement.
Who are the targets of the Free Agency Lakers?
Los Angeles still has two top superstars, Davis and LeBron James, and other key contributors Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso for the 2019-20 season.