November started on a positive note for the Lakers after they grabbed just their second win of the season in an overtime game against the New Orleans Pelicans. However, it’s worth remembering that it took a a last-gasp three from an unheralded player in Matt Ryan to even send the game into overtime after the Lakers blew a 16-point lead.
If Ryan doesn’t make that tough shot, the Lakers would have lost three-straight games this month. Their next game against the Utah Jazz ended up being a 130-116 loss, and while they were only behind by five points heading into the fourth quarter, they weren’t able to muster up a comeback attempt before losing by double digits.
It’s never a good look when players like Anthony Davis are getting played to a standstill by the likes of Lauri Markannen, who to be fair is having a stellar start to his season.
In today’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Lakers got off to a roaring start and an early 12-point lead, but were once again grinded down by a younger squad. LeBron James had a typical output of 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Anthony Davis had 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
Russell Westbrook, who came off the bench again and had 19 points, three rebounds and 10 assists while shooting 6 of 13 overall and 3 of 5 from three, has been efficient from the field, but he’s also had trouble with turnovers, accounting for 17 of the Lakers’ 44 miscues in their last three games.
LA’s big three were able to even take a lead with 3:52 left in the third quarter, but it’s become abundantly clear that they struggle to close out games. Through the remaining 15-16 minutes of the game, the Cavaliers outscored the Lakers 37-20 before handing LA a 114-100 defeat.
I’m not sure what will fix the Lakers’ problems with closing games at the moment. While you have James, Davis and Westbrook on paper, it’s not clear who they can rely on to finish a game strong. James, who turns 38 next month, can’t shoulder the load and it’s not fair to ask him to keep doing it at this point in his career.
Davis, who should be getting handed the keys to the franchise, is averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.9 assists in seven games so far, but long-term health is always an issue for him.
The lack of a closer was in stark contrast to the Cavaliers today, who had the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and saw Jarrett Allen score 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. Mitchell, who’s had a scintillating start to his first season in Cleveland, finished the game with 33 points, and Garland had 24.
The Lakers play again tomorrow, and will be taking on the Jazz again. Both teams will be on the second night of a back-to-back, so it will be interesting to see if the Lakers’ older stars will have enough gas in the tank. For the rest of the season, it will be a constant struggle to see who can be relied on to produce when a game hangs in the balance.