- Benjamin Gerstel
Lakers continue to struggle
Following a fantastic win the game prior, Los Angeles attempted to keep their groove going tonight against the Indiana Pacers. With Indiana being 13th in the Eastern Conference was a very winnable game for Frank Vogel’s squad. However, it didn’t exactly go as planned.
Los Angeles played a solid game, throughout the first three quarters. Led by their MVP’s 30-12-5, the Lakers were able to put on a productive group effort tonight. Russell Westbrook went 4-6 from downtown, and Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk, and Talen Horton-Tucker combined for 44 points off the bench (behind THT’s 20). Malik Monk was hitting LeBron for half-court reverse lobs, while LeBron continuously attacked the rim and hit step-back threes. THT had a few highlights of his own, including a nasty turnaround fade at the elbow. Offensively, they looked much improved, and led by as many as fifteen.
Even when their offense was clicking, L.A. struggled to contain Indiana. Two-time All-star Domantas Sabonis, went for his fourth triple-double of the season, as he dominated the Lakers down low. Indiana had 15 more points in the paint, while also outrebounding L.A. by eight. Chris Duarte sprinkled in 11 points off the bench, along with Brogdon’s 19 off of an achilles injury. These guys kept Indiana within reach, until Caris LeVert decided to completely take over in the fourth.
Despite a valiant effort by Los Angeles, a phenomenal fourth quarter from Caris LeVert was the difference maker in this game. While he was automatic, it seemed like the Lakers had no interest in even attempting to guard him. This fourth quarter highlighted issues for Frank Vogel’s squad, primarily their defensive effort. It was shocking to see how open Caris was, even though he was clearly cooking L.A. For example, one of these instances occurred with 2:02 left in the game, with L.A. down six.
Caris LeVert swung the ball to Torrey Craig and before it even gets to him, Melo’s back is completely turned away from Caris. While he might’ve been expecting a screen to switch on, Torrey Craig recognized this and gave it right back to LeVert, leading to a wide-open three. There’s no way on earth Melo can guard Caris facing the complete opposite direction, so it’s a very concerning sight to see. These types of mental lapses are crucial, especially when guarding a player like LeVert who has taken over the game. All of Melo’s attention should’ve been on Caris, and not on whatever may happen next in the play. Another example is when Caris missed a midrange, but followed it up with the offensive rebound and putback. The former Michigan Wolverine was surrounded by yellow jerseys on the play, who did nothing but watch. LeVert dropped 22 of his 30 in the fourth quarter, leading Indiana to a win over L.A., 111-104
While the fourth quarter will sting for a bit, there are positive takeaways for Frank Vogel. For starters, their performance offensively was entertaining, and extremely aggressive and confident. Guys like Malik Monk, THT, and Russ played with a newly-ignited fire within them. Another note to make is the historic mark LeBron achieved tonight. He is the first player ever, with 30,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 9,000 assists. LeBron got his 10,000 rebound tonight, securing this incredible feat. It’s another achievement for the King’s Hall-of-Fame-worthy resume. It’s his fifteenth straight game leading the Lakers in scoring. However, this type of individual accolade will not heal the embarrassing loss.
The Lakers are now a sub-.500 team, and Frank Vogel remains on the hot-seat, despite the injury to Anthony Davis and an overall underperformance by his roster. Tomorrow, the Lakers have another should-win game against Orlando, but it is always tough to win on a back to back, especially when they are away.