Lakers fall to .500 at year’s end after loss to Pelicans

Stephen Lew- USA Today Sports
The Lakers gave up 42 points in the first quarter and couldn’t come from behind to avoid a loss to the Pelicans on Sunday night.

Despite their championship aspirations, the Los Angeles Lakers have looked like anything but a championship contender over the last week and a half. Following their brutal loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves the previous night (where LeBron James’ foot was on the line to prevent the game from going to overtime) the Lakers came out exhausted and lackadaisical on a second night of a back-to-back vs. the New Orleans Pelicans. Though James and Anthony Davis played great yet again, Lakers role players simply didn’t step up enough on offense to get them back in the game. Taurean Prince was one of the lone bright spots continuing his sharpshooting from 3, but the Lakers were exhausted from their previous game against the Wolves and simply couldn’t defend on Sunday night.

Here are my three takeaways from the game:

Despite the Lakers 20 point loss, Taurean Prince continued to excel from beyond the arc hitting 4 out of his 7 3-point attempts while scoring 15 points overall on the night. It’s no secret that the Lakers struggle from 3PT range as they rank 22nd in the league at 35.3% from beyond the arc as a team.

I guess if you compare it to last years team that shot 34.4% from 3PT range, they are a bit better and it’s only because of Prince, who is the only Laker shooting 40% from 3 on the season with more than 5 3-Point attempts per game. Despite Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, Jared Vanderbilt, and Cam Reddish all struggling from 3PT range recently, Prince has been the one constant and the Lakers need to look for more 3PT shooters on the trade market.

I mentioned this in my previous article from the Wolves game, but the Lakers continue to waste a historic season from a healthy Anthony Davis (who has played 80 of the team’s last 84 games). Davis finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 blocks, and has been a menace on both ends of the floor every single game this season. There were questions about Davis’ consistency since the Lakers won a championship in 2020 but this may be his best season pound for pound because of his stellar defense that should put him in the conversation for defensive player of the year. Despite Davis averaging over 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks+steals a game over the last 11 matchups, the Lakers are just 3-8 in those games. The team has rarely been this bad when Davis is healthy during his lakers tenure and upgrading the role players should be the primary concentration as the trade deadline looms.

Austin Reaves did score 20 points and dished out 9 assists on Sunday night, but he struggled from 3PT range for a 2nd straight game going just 1-5 from 3. On Saturday Reaves went 0-5 from 3PT range as he’s 1 for his last 10 from beyond the arc. Though Reaves has been a model of consistency and growth over the course of his career for the Lakers, the last two games is evident of the lack of shooting depth on the Lakers. When Reaves isn’t hitting from deep, Prince is the only other threat from 3PT range and in a game where the Lakers didn’t play much defense, they desperately needed Reaves to step up and hit some 3’s. As I mentioned in the Prince takeaway, the Lakers are not going to stay in games if they can’t defend, and Rob Pelinka and Lakers brass should invest a lot of their time in finding some more 3PT shooting and offensive shot creators before the trade deadline.

The Lakers had a ton of momentum following their In-Season Tournament Championship run, but that has long withered away with a lack of intensity and lackluster shooting performances over the last few weeks. They’ll have a chance to get back on track against the Miami Heat on Wednesday January 3rd.

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