July 30, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Lakers falter at finish: 5 takeaways from loss to Portland

The Lakers’ record is now 2-2 after failing to close out the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night, when both their stars played despite sustaining recent injuries.

Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 115-107 loss at Staples Center:

1) The Lakers needed more from Anthony Davis.

I asked Davis after the game if his injured calf was feeling OK, and he said it was fine. So what explained his absence from the game in the first half, his incredibly passive performance? Seems like Davis saw the Lakers play so unselfishly Sunday when he was sidelined during a win over Minnesota and didn’t want to disrupt things.

“Anytime you take a game off I don’t want to force my way back into the rhythm,” he said. “Team played well last night and I just tried to fit in knowing that their focus going to be on me, guard me and try and double team me and things like that, so I just try to make the right plays, the right reads. I like the shots I got early on, went in and out but just having to be more aggressive to start the game.”

One metric to watch are his free-throw attempts. Davis has attempted two or less in two of the three games he played, both losses.

It all points to aggressiveness, and Davis didn’t have much of it Monday.

“I just think we didn’t do a good enough job making sure that he was involved in the offense in the first half,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We just have to do a bit better job with that.”

Davis said he needs to do more — that 13 points aren’t enough.

“I gotta score the ball. Simple as that,” Davis said. “Obviously I try to make plays and find a rhythm, get back with the team, especially when they played so well yesterday. You never want to come back and guys are force feeding you and trying to get you the ball because you can make shots. So I try to find my rhythm back into the system, but I’ve got to be more aggressive, just go out there and score the basketball. Simple as that, whatever it takes to win the game.”

2) Kyle Kuzma moved back to the Lakers’ bench after a great game in the starting lineup Sunday, and he promptly went 2-for-9 shooting from the field and finished with a team-worst minus-23 in the plus/minus rating.

His rough night shooting was contrasted with Gary Trent Jr., who came off the Portland bench to make seven triples on his way to a 28-point night.

“I thought we had some great looks that didn’t go down for us, that actually went down for us the last couple games, especially Kuz’s looks,” LeBron James said. “He had some great looks for us tonight, I think the one that he made by their bench was the toughest shot of all the ones he had.”

3) The Lakers were without Alex Caruso because of the league’s health and safety protocols related to COVID-19, the first time a Laker has missed a game because of that this regular season.

His status for the upcoming road trip is unclear.

“We miss Alex. Alex is great energy,” Vogel said. “He’s one of our most vocal guys even when he’s not in the game, just talking on coverages. He’s like an assistant coach over there, helping guys through defending actions. He’s a big part of what we do, obviously, so we certainly missed his energy tonight.”

4) After starring in an all-around effort Sunday, Marc Gasol wasn’t much of a factor against Portland, watching in the fourth quarter as Vogel closed with Montrezl Harrell at center.

“Well, we’re a new team. We’re going to continue to look at different things,” Vogel said. “We can play with Marc or with Trez finishing. We have the ability to slide AD over to the five. … So I liked the lineup that we had out there, but we just weren’t able to get the job done.”

5) The Lakers now get to navigate the bizarre world of life on the road in the NBA this season, complete with intensely limited options for gatherings outside of the basketball court and meeting rooms.

Making things stranger, the Lakers will take on Memphis and San Antonio in two-game series.

“It’s going to be different. It’s going to be very challenging just to hit the road, which we haven’t done much,” James said. “Obviously the Phoenix trip, but it was preseason games and you didn’t want to put too much into it. But, now this is the real deal. All the games count. It’s going to be very different, we believe. Going down to Texas and then to Tennessee, we’ll see with counties, what are the rules and regulations in certain counties compared to ours. More importantly, just try to stay safe, stay healthy so we can be available for the games.”