Lakers To Battle Clippers

Los Angeles Lakers v Houston RocketsDespite playing a back-to-back at Dallas and at Houston, the Lakers gathered on Thursday at the practice facility in advance of Friday’s matchup with the Clippers. L.A. has dropped three of four to start 2014, and nine of their last 10 overall, with their only win coming against Utah during that stretch.

“It’s a good time to come in and get some treatment, watch film and gather ourselves a bit,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We don’t want to get fragmented. We have to keep our spirits up and keep our heads up. I think the guys understand that.”

Both the coaching staff and the players also understand the main theme that has hurt the team in their last 10 games: turnovers. The Lakers are averaging 17.1 turnovers per game during that stretch, which would rank 28th in the league, and opponents are scoring nearly 23 points off those miscues.

At Houston, the Lakers gave up the ball seven times in the third quarter alone, allowing the Rockets to erase a 57-52 halftime deficit and turn the game in their favor entering the fourth. At Dallas, they committed six turnovers in the final 12 minutes, which proved to be the difference down the stretch.

“That’s probably the number one factor in why we’re losing,” D’Antoni said. “We’re giving up between 20, 25 and 35 points off turnovers. When we get our halfcourt defense set, we’re in the top half. We’re 30th in points in transition (17.8) and 30th in second-chance points (15.4). Those are two of the things killing us and turnovers are a big part of that.”

Kendall Marshall, who recorded 32 assists to four turnovers in his first two starts, has totaled 14 dimes and 12 turnovers in the last two games. With no true backup ballhandler, he’s also logged at least 38 minutes in three of those four starts.

“We have to do a better job for Kendall,” D’Antoni said. “He’s a certain type of point guard if you don’t set the pick and roll right, if you don’t space the floor, if you don’t give him a chance … but we’re closing the floor on him and he’s going to turn it over. That’s not his fault, that’s a team fault.”

Although the Lakers have lost all their primary playmakers to injuries, the Clippers recently lost their floor general, Chris Paul, to a separated shoulder on Jan. 3. The Clippers defeated Orlando and most recently Boston, two teams that are a combined 25 games under .500, but lost at San Antonio by 24. Darren Collison, who has moved into the starting lineup in place of Paul, is averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 2.7 steals while shooting 62.1 percent from the floor in those three starts. The key, however, comes down to taking care of the ball.

“If we turn it over, ESPN will be filled with highlights the way they run,” D’Antoni said. “So number one, we can’t turn it over. Number two, we have to get back (in transition). Number three, we have to make some shots and move the ball well.”