Lakers mull how to ‘right ship’ after latest loss to Heat
LOS ANGELES — Finally back at Crypto.com Arena after a brutal December in which they were seemingly perpetually on the road and slid in the standings, the Los Angeles Lakers looked like strangers in their own home in Wednesday night’s 110-96 loss to the Miami Heat.
The schedule was supposed to be favorable for the Lakers coming into the new year, with 11 of their first 12 January games in L.A., but the Heat — with their star, Jimmy Butler, out for the second straight game because of right foot irritation — were the team that looked comfortable.
“It’s a little bit of everything right now,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said afterward, explaining how his team has gone 2-8 in its past 10 to fall to No. 10 in the Western Conference. “We’re not executing. That team played harder than us tonight, executed better than us tonight, more physical than us tonight. We got outworked tonight, so it’s a bit of everything right now.
“If we keep on this train, it’s not going to be good for us.”
It was especially bad early against the Heat. Miami led by as many as 11 in the first quarter, with L.A. coughing up 10 turnovers in the opening frame while shooting 6-for-18 from the field (0-for-7 on 3-pointers), looking lost against the Heat’s zone defense.
“They threw a zone in, and they just dared us to make shots, and we didn’t,” said Anthony Davis, who led L.A. with 29 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks, but also had a team-high five turnovers. “Kind of took us out of our thing, but 10 turnovers in the first quarter was kind of a recipe for disaster.”
Playing with a starting lineup of Davis, LeBron James, Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince and Austin Reaves for the first time, L.A. appeared disjointed on the offensive end and disconnected on defense, particularly in the fourth quarter when Miami scored 38 points on 58.3% shooting while going 6-for-11 from 3.
The Lakers, meanwhile, shot 4-for-30 (13.3%) from deep for the game. Ham said that a revolving door of injuries has hampered his group. Reddish returned from a groin injury at the same time Rui Hachimura missed his first game because of a Grade 1 left calf strain and D’Angelo Russell missed a second straight game because of a bruised tailbone.
“We can’t find any consistency until we get healthy. It’s as simple as that. We’ve got to get healthy,” Ham said. “When you’re dealing with different guys being in and out of the lineup that frequently, it’s damn near impossible to find a rhythm. That’s just being real.”
L.A.’s dramatic dip in the standings since winning the league’s inaugural in-season tournament has made it difficult to determine what this team is capable of. But it’s clear frustration is starting to build.
James, after scoring a season-low 12 points on 6-of-18 shooting, left the arena without speaking to reporters, a rarity for the 21-year veteran.
Reaves said the team’s mood was “s—ty.”
“We’re losing,” Reaves said after his 24 points and eight assists went for naught. “Anytime you lose, the vibe should be off, you know? If I went in [the locker room] and the vibe wasn’t off after the rough stretch that we’ve had, then I’d be concerned. That’s really it. You know, I don’t expect for us to be happy with how we’ve played. So, until we figure that out, you know, the vibe should be off. We got to win games.”
Reaves later clarified his remarks, adding: “When I say the vibe is off, it’s not like we don’t like each other. It’s we’re losing. … But I don’t want to get that twisted on us not liking each other. Everybody in the locker room gets along.”
The point of clarification was an important one. After all, last year’s team — needing to fix both its on-court performance and off-court chemistry — was completely overhauled in a series of trades at the deadline.
These Lakers aren’t calling for outside help. At least not yet.
“We got to attack and be more competitive, but we need guys to step up and play better,” Ham said. “The reason we signed them is because we know what they can do. And so you got to come with that confidence each and every night and you got to fight through it. Things not going your way, you can’t ball up in the corner somewhere and go cry about it. You got to step up and try to see how you can best assist your team in being successful.”
Ham added that he will consider going back to the starting lineup of James, Davis, Reaves, Vanderbilt and Russell that L.A. used down the stretch last season and in the first couple rounds of the playoffs, once Russell gets healthy that is.
“I think everything is on the table that makes sense,” Ham said. “No stone shall go unturned. We’re here to explore whatever we can to right the ship.”
Davis said L.A. will try to find its footing Friday at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, the team it beat in the first round last postseason.
“We just got to compete, play hard and go out with a mindset of a must-win mentality, and hopefully that can propel us over to get back to .500 on Friday and then kind of put a streak together at home,” he said. “I mean, we’ve been a really good home team thus far, and we got an opportunity to continue to build on that.
“But if we play how we played tonight, then it’s going to go south for us really bad.”
First appeared on www.espn.com