Lakers

Lakers Rediscover Two-Way Identity in Recent Resurgence

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Prior to the Los Angeles Lakers’ current two-game winning streak, the team was in a free fall.

Without both Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder, the Lakers lacked an identity. Sloppy play and blown leads were starting to become the norm, and one could only hope they would eventually pull themselves out of this slump. Given they lost to teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Utah Jazz, everyone knew it wasn’t the end of the world for the team.

You just thought with the team being down two starters that other players outside of LeBron James would step up.

To a sense they did, but it still wasn’t enough.

After snapping their losing streak with the win against Portland, the Lakers came out with a sense of energy and urgency we had not seen in a very long while against the Golden State Warriors Sunday night. The execution on offense was flawless as they seemed unstoppable beyond the arc while turning in a masterful performance on the defensive end.

With the Lakers now riding a two-game winning streak, here are three things the purple and gold did to get back on track.

Getting Schroder Back

Even though having Schroder out of the lineup for four games was something the team had no control over, he must be recognized as a catalyst for the team’s turnaround.

Without Dennis, the team looked absolutely lost. No rhythm on offense and no communication on defense highlighted LA’s ailing play.

Once Schroder returned, however, it made all the difference in the world. Dennis the Menace carved up the Portland defense for 22 points to go along with two assists and three rebounds. Against the Warriors, Schroder was even more masterful, posting 12 points, six assists and a game-high plus/minus rating of +32.

Obviously there’s no way Dennis is more vital than LeBron or AD to the Lakers’ success, but it’s safe to say the team seems much more comfortable and efficient with him on the floor.

Limiting the Turnovers/Three-point Shooting

Turning the ball over a disastrous 16 times per game and struggling to hit 30% from deep were two downfalls during the Lakers’ losing streak.

Against Portland, however, the turnover bug seemed to disappear, as they reduced their high average to just 10 for the game. They seemed to be more focused and organized running their offensive sets.

In the blowout victory over the Warriors, it was the revival of the three-point shot that won the Lakers the game. As a team, LAL connected on five shots beyond the arc in the first five minutes of the game. They finished shooting 35 percent from deep which was their best mark by far in the last six games.

The turnover temperature did rise again to 20, but if the Lakers are able to minimize those along with shooting the three-ball at a high rate, the team will be just fine until AD returns.

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Perimeter Defense

Failing to defend the three-ball had begun to be a problem for the Lakers’ defense. The team’s inability to hone in on the other team’s star players early and not rotating quick enough beyond the arc were also part of the issue. This was yet another fixed problem against POR and GSW. Despite Portland’s Damian Lillard going off for 35 points, no other Blazer eclipsed 20. The Lakers were also able to force the Blazers to below 30 percent from three and hold them to just 93 points.

The game against the Warriors was even more incredible on the defensive end. Not only did the Lakeshow hold Golden State to 23 percent shooting from beyond the arc, they even held in check human torch Stephen Curry. The two-time MVP could only muster 16 points on 5-13 shooting from the floor. The Lakers kept a body on Curry all night to the point where he even had a few choice words for Schroder.

This game was a great reminder to everyone that the Lakers still own the league’s second-best defense, and getting AD back is only going to make them more complete.

Ending on a Positive Note

Obviously without AD and Schroder, the Lakers are going to be at a tremendous disadvantage. Though despite the string of losses and now getting back on track, there have been two positives to come out of everything.

One is the consistent play of sixth-man-of-the-year candidate Montrezl Harrell. Over his last six games, Harrell has averaged 15 points and six rebounds, which is currently leading all Lakers off the bench. Harrell’s consistency off the bench with AD sidelined has been critical in keeping the second team together.

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The second positive is the overall resurgence of Kyle Kuzma. The fourth-year veteran scored 16 points to go along with 10 rebounds against Brooklyn. Kuz then backed up this stellar performance with a 23-point night against Miami and his 10th double-double since January in the loss to Washington. Despite having cooled off these past two games, Kuz’s energy on defense has remained and proved to be what the Lakers need most.

With AD being out until after the All-Star break at the very least, Kuzma is at the forefront of Lakers’ players that need to step up. When consistent, Kuz offers the Lakers strong defensive play that can be all the difference in determining if the team walks out of the arena with a win, or a loss.

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About Gabriel Mungaray

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