The Los Angeles Lakers’ 2020-21 season is going strong so far. There are a couple of hiccups, but it’s evident that the new rotation, short off-season, and strictness of the COVID-19 protocols aren’t messing the team up.
While having a huge “X” on their backs, the defending champions have jumped into an 18-6 start, highlighted by winning their first 10 road games of the season. Though that streak has since been snapped, they have transitioned into owning the number one-ranked defense in the league, both in points allowed and defensive rating. It’s pretty good.
What makes the Lakers defense great?
We can probably start with how the pieces fit mentally.
The Lakers can be divided into two groups. On one corner, you have the carryovers from last year’s championship run, who all have momentum and are more trusting in their abilities and the team’s system. On the other side, you have the new blood, mainly Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, and Wesley Matthews, who are yet to win a title and are hungry for all the prestige. Marc Gasol, also a first-year Laker, can be on any of those two as he has won a championship and he’s looking to bag another one. Combining those two sides will get you a good mixture of confidence and desire.
Then, there’s focus and discipline.
How a team responds following a defeat is always a good indicator as to how well-built the group really is. This Lakers squad is continuing to prove they don’t get fazed by the inevitable mishaps.
This is how they came back following losses and ugly stretches:
- After loss #1 (Lakers 109, Clippers 116), they won back-to-back blowouts. They beat the Dallas Mavericks on Christmas day, 138-115, and followed it up by an even bigger blowout against the Minnesota Timberwolves two days after, 127-91.
- After loss #2 (Lakers 107, Blazers 115), they racked up four consecutive road victories, two each against the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies. They held them to just 99 PPG on 42.7% shooting.
- After Loss #3 (Lakers 109, Spurs 118), they won five-straight games with an average winning margin of 16.6 points.
- After loss #4 (Lakers 113, Warriors 115), they won three straight on the road and forced opponents to commit 16.3 turnovers per game. The last two featured a clamp down of the opposition’s leading scorer in the fourth quarter. Zach LaVine of the Bulls and Collin Sexton of the Cavaliers combined to go 3-for-9 for seven points in those respective final periods.
- After losses #5 (Lakers 106, Sixers 107) and #6 (Lakers 92, Pistons 107), which they lost consecutively, they’ve won four in a row and held the opposition to just 95.7 PPG in the first three wins.
Looking at the Lakers’ recent win over the Denver Nuggets will also lead you to a good example of their resiliency on defense. They were down, 63-71, with 5:58 remaining in the third quarter when they suddenly revved up their defensive jets. From that point until game’s end, the Lakers outscored the Nuggets 51-22, and held them to a woeful 9-for-33 shooting. Denver’s All-Star and MVP candidate, Nikola Jokic, was actually held to single-digit scoring until midway into the final period.
Keep looking out for the Lakers’ stingy defense. It will be interesting to see them keep this up.
Next on the Lakers’ crosshairs are the Oklahoma City Thunder. They’ll meet this Tuesday at Staples Center, 11:00 AM, Manila time.