The Los Angeles Lakers are 24-25 after 49 games. They just lost a back-to-back in two winnable games against the Rockets and the Hawks. And this was right after they had a huge win in San Francisco in what was possibly the best-played game of the season against the Warriors.
That’s just how it has been for the Los Angeles Lakers. We can criticize Darvin Ham all we want (and he’s deserved plenty of it) but he’s not out there on the court. Sometimes, the Lakers come out flatter than a pancake and let everyone score on them. And sometimes, they look like worldbeaters. So which is it? What are they?
A middling team is what they are. The 24-25 slate is enough proof that they are. It’s too big a sample size, at this point; we’re already past the halfway mark of the season. I’m not even sure a major trade can fix things (unless, of course, they somehow get 90s Michael Jordan, 90s Shaquille O’Neal, and 2000s Kobe Bryant for a 2031 second round pick); they need to bring their own energy every game.
And that’s what their forever archenemies, the Boston Celtics, seem to do day in and day out. On Dec. 25th, the Celtics gave the Lakers a gift. The Lake Show unwrapped them and they got a big fat L.
Boston has the best record overall (37-11) in the league. They’re second in both offensive and defensive rating. They make every possession count (6th fewest per game but only 0.3 turnovers behind #1 Sixers). And they will snipe from outside when they get the chance to (first in three-point field goals and attempts; 4th in percentage).
That means everyone from the Celtics will fire from afar. Kristaps Porzingis has been a nightmare match-up ever since he came into the league. While Anthony Davis did what he could (40 points, 13 boards) in that Christmas game, Porzingis had 28 points and 11 boards. His presence gets Davis out of the paint (+8 for the Celtics in points in the paint and we know that’s normally a Laker strength). And the Celtics have strong perimeter defenders in Jrue Holiday and Derrick White. Let’s also not forget the versatility of both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
LeBron James has to do better than his Christmas outing (16-9-8) but it’s just so strange to ask a dude in his 21st season to keep up his productivity. No one’s been able to do what he has been doing and the Lakers are very fortunate that he can still do it. But the Lakers need to help him. The team is certainly capable of giving him that help but I’ve already said a million times how frustrating this team can be.
But of course, we can’t leave out what the Lakers do after coming out of the locker room from halftime. We joke about the Third Quarter Lakers a lot but it seems that it’s been really a huge problem over the last few days. That net rating (points per possession minus points allowed per possession) is really gross over this road trip. The Lakers have let everyone walk through the door in that all-important third period.
So yes, the Lakers will have to try to limit the Celtics’ three-point shooting as well as try to protect the paint. Most importantly, they need to bring that energy (especially defensively; they have allowed 130 points or more in 5 of their last 7 games). And they really need to have that zeal coming out of halftime.
Of course, it won’t be surprising if the Lakers actually defeat the Celtics like we all know they’re capable of. It sure beats the other option where they continue to slide and go deeper into the abyss. I’m sure the Laker fans prefer the first choice but no matter the result, it’ll be yet another frustrating experience. Win and we wonder why the Lakers can’t do this on a consistent basis. Lose and we wonder why the team continues to be so average (and bad) after we had such high expectations for them.