Saturday Practice Report

A recurring theme as of late has been the Lakers finding themselves falling behind early, and trying to make a comeback in the second half.

“We just have to get better starts,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Whatever we’re doing isn’t working right now.”

They overcame a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit at Golden State, crawled back from a 9-point third quarter deficit against New York and even erased an 18-point third-quarter deficit against Charlotte.

But against the Sixers on New Years, the comeback fell just short after trailing by as many as 11 in the first quarter. On Friday at the Clippers, twice the Lakers found themselves in a position to take the lead after crawling back from 18-plus point deficits.

“We competed,” D’Antoni noted when asked if there were any positives to take away from the loss. “We came back from (18- and 19-point deficits) and we had a shot at the end to win. So there are spots where we’re really good and there are spots that we seem to dissolve a little bit as a team. We have to find guys that can make shots and we have to get back to that.”

In the last two games, the team is shooting at a 42.4 clip, including just 9 for 46 from the 3-point line. Jodie Meeks (7 for 27) and Metta World Peace (5 for 24) in particular, have struggled as of late, the two combining to shoot 12 for 51 from deep.

“That’s a little bit of a problem,” D’Antoni acknowledged. “You don’t put any pressure on the other team. When they don’t have pressure to make shots, it’s a lot easier to shoot the ball. We’re always shooting under pressure, down eight or 10, and the ball has to go in. Then you’re down 15 or 17, and it’s ‘Oh (man).’ We’re struggling with that a little bit.”

With a matchup against Denver on Sunday, a team the Lakers had stumbled on the road against less than two weeks ago, the coaching staff allowed there is a correlation with the offense struggling and defense not being up to par.

“Defensively, we need to work harder and we lose our energy on defense sometimes because the offense sputters,” D’Antoni said.

In the first meeting of the year between the two teams on Nov. 30, the offense didn’t sputter, as Antawn Jamison scored a season-high 33 points and Jodie Meeks drained seven 3’s – out of nine attempts – for 21 points off the bench. Dwight Howard also recorded his only 20-20 game of the year, with 28 points, 20 boards and three blocks, too.

But during the most recent contest at Denver, the Nuggets scored 126 points, the most scored by a Lakers opponent this year, along with nailing 12 for 22 on 3-pointers and grabbing 20 offensive boards that led to 25 second-chance points. The main concern, he said, for Sunday’s game are threefold.

“Visions of Kenneth Faried on the boards, (Ty) Lawson barreling down on our guards with the bigs not back yet and lobs from Andre Miller,” D’Antoni allowed. “So those three things we need to pay attention to.”

Even more so, though, the coaching staff is hoping for a more consistent effort for the full 48 minutes.

“That’s where we have to get better,” D’Antoni said. “But because sometimes our perceived ball not flowing or whatever, we lose energy on the defensive end. The only way we’re going to get out of it is work harder.”