The 3-point shot has been a staple for coach Mike D’Antoni’s teams.
From 2004-05 to 2007-08, his Phoenix squads led the league in that category, never shooting below 39 percent.
The Lakers, under D’Antoni, ranked as high as sixth before the team’s contest at Golden State on Dec. 22, converting at a 37.2 clip. But in the team’s last six games – all losses – the Lakers are shooting just 28.8 percent from deep, falling to 15th in the league.
Longer missed shots can lead to longer rebounds, allowing teams to get out in transition; four of L.A.’s six losses have come against opponents ranked in the top five in transition points.
In the Lakers’ most recent loss against Oklahoma City, the Thunder recorded 22 fastbreak points, while also shooting nearly 51 percent from the floor toward 116 points.
“We gave them a lot of easy opportunities,” Kobe Bryant acknowledged after Friday’s loss. “We had a lot of defensive lapses which gave them some easy ‘cracks’ at the basket, and they took advantage of it.”
During L.A.’s six-game skid, opponents are averaging almost 112 points per game, while also converting at a 49 percent clip from the floor and 39.6 percent from the 3-point line. Not having all three big men – Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill – has played a role in the team’s defensive issues, but largely, Steve Nash is encouraged by the players filling in.
“I like the energy, but like I said, we’re a bit undersized,” Steve Nash said. “The energy is there and guys are trying. Guys are trying to be in the right spots. It’s going to be tough. We have to play so hard with this unit to be good defensively because we’re undersized. But guys are doing it.”
D’Antoni has used rookie Robert Sacre at center, while rotating Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison in the frontcourt in the last three games. At times, there are glimpses of what the team is able to do defensively, especially in the second half when the Thunder shot just 42 percent from the floor. At other times, like during the Thunder’s 39-point second quarter, the issues still largely remain the same.
“We’re not playing well, we’re not defending well and we’re not moving the ball well,” D’Antoni said. “Things that at some point, have to get better.”
The Lakers stand five games back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but are trying to remain optimistic despite their most recent struggles on and off the floor.
“We live in the moment,” D’Antoni said. “Take one game at a time and play that game. Don’t look ahead and don’t look who it is. Play that game and play hard. Let’s go try to do something with most people counting us out. We think we can do it, but we know the road is not easy. If we can solve our problems, we’ll be good.”