The Lakers have been one of the rare teams in the NBA that have enjoyed confidence going into the often-dreaded second game of a back-to-back. Entering Sunday’s game against the struggling Washington Wizards, they were 5-1 in such games.
Perhaps a regression to the mean was inevitable.
The Lakers (18-12) legs looked water-logged in a 128-110 Sunday loss to the Wizards (12-18), in which John Wall blitzed them early and then never really stopped. He had 40 points and 14 assists while none of the Lakers seemed to provide the punch they had brought one night earlier in a runaway win over Charlotte.
“Not a lot of good to take from that,’ Luke Walton said, “other than the lesson of if you don’t show up to play in the NBA you will not win.”
The breaks they had against the Hornets flipped: JaVale McGee, who had been able to play a night earlier with the flu, was unable to suit up after the IVs that sustained him in Charlotte didn’t work in Washington. That left the already short-handed Lakers down another body, and they looked tired against Wall’s pick-and-roll fueled assault at the rim: 10 of the Wizards’ 21 fast-break points came in the first quarter.
On their offense, the Lakers started with a flurry of turnovers, finishing with 22. Many of the open looks didn’t go down, and no one typified that more than LeBron James who had a 5 for 16 shooting night for a season-low 13 points. He spent much of his energy fuming at officials for perceived missed calls.
By halftime, the Lakers were in a 20-point hole. And it didn’t get much better.
“It’s hard: It can be done,” Walton said. “A lot of times in the NBA you’ll find a team go down big early and find that run, find that energy. We didn’t do that tonight. We tried different rotations. We went to zone. We went small. We just didn’t have it.”
At the same time, Wall was on a rampage: He had 28 points in the first half alone, the last basket of which was a high-arcing rainbow over Tyson Chandler to beat the buzzer. He then mugged for the home crowd, who cheered one of his best efforts of the season.
At one point, Wall later said, the Lakers employed a box-and-one zone defense, which he had not played against since his high school days.
James didn’t mince words in his postgame comments: He acknowledged that Wall was the better star at Capital One Center.
“He dictated the game,” he said. “He had energy and we didn’t. He kept us on our heels all night. John, that’s what he is, a one-man fast break.”
The Lakers’ best player was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — who has recently been publicly discussed as a possible trade asset rather than a key rotation piece. Coming off the bench, he hit his first seven shots of the game on his way to 25 points.
It was a far cry from the plaudits of Saturday, when both James and Lonzo Ball had triple-doubles against the Hornets.
Ball, too, struggled, with 10 points on 4 of 11 shooting. While he had three steals and two blocks on defense, Wall was his assignment. The only Laker to break 20 points was Kyle Kuzma, who also had a team-high six turnovers
Now with a 1-2 record during the road trip, the Lakers set their attention to the Brooklyn Nets and hoping to close out their East Coast swing with better energy on Tuesday night.
Source: Kyle Goon