The Los Angeles Lakers have officially wrapped up their eight seeding games and will be heading to the 2020 NBA playoffs for the very first time in seven seasons.
While their upcoming first round series against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers is undoubtedly going to be filled with excitement and give fans a better look at what to expect from the Lakers as the playoffs continue, it is also important to take a look at what they have displayed thus far in their return.
The Lakers opened up their time in the Disney World bubble in Orlando, FL with a huge win over the cross-town rival Los Angeles Clippers before managing to drop five of their next seven games. Outside of the Clippers, the only teams the Lakers managed to beat during this time were the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets.
While two of those wins came against top-three seeds in the Western Conference, the other five losses do not make fans excited about their success. The Lakers that arrived to the bubble have not been the same team that dominated all throughout the 2019-20 NBA season for a number of reasons whether it be getting used to new personnel, a lack of urgency, or just flat out rust after a five-month hiatus.
Let us take a look at a couple of aspects about the team’s play in their seeding games that might have led to their lackluster performance to begin the restart:
Anthony Davis’ disappearing act
A concern for many Lakers fans was whether or not Davis could really step up to the plate and handle the pressure of a playoff atmosphere. Unfortunately, Davis did not do much to quiet those doubts during these eight seeding games, averaging just 21.6 points (42.2 percent shooting from the field), 8.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks. Typically, for any other player, those stats would be more than fine.
However, Davis needs to be held to a much higher standard.
Compared to the stats Davis put up in the 55 games before the bubble, his points (5.1), rebounds (0.8), blocks (1.1), and field goal percentage (8.9) all decreased.
In the three wins, Davis put up 42, 27, and 34 points and shot no lower than 42 percent from the field. However, in the five losses, he did not play one game and shot above 28 percent just once. His game-high in these losses was 17 points, which is just unacceptable from a player with the amount of talent he possesses.
Davis was passive in some games as he tried to get teammates involved on offense but in others, he was just flat out bad on the offensive end. His defense never seems to waver — which is one of his best attributes — but his scoring ability will be paramount to the team’s success if they want to make a championship run.
There are very few — if any — players in the league capable of guarding Davis for 48 minutes and everyone knows that. Head coach Frank Vogel knows it, LeBron James knows it — and in all honesty — the opposing team knows it as well.
It will just be up to ‘The Brow’ himself to take advantage of that on a nightly basis.
Lakers just went flat out cold from three-point line
The Lakers went cold as soon as they hopped off the private plane and entered the bubble. In order to prove it, here is a look at their stats and where they ranked before the season was paused due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 11:
Points Per Game: 114.3 (7th)
Field Goal Percentage: 48.5 (1st)
Rebounds: 46.1 (8th)
Assists: 25.9 (9th)
Offensive Rating: 112.6 (4th)
Defensive Rating: 105.5 (3rd)
Net Rating: 7.1 (2nd)
Now, here is a look at their stats and where they ranked inside the bubble while keeping in mind this is only out of the 22 teams that returned to Orlando:
Points Per Game: 106.4 (21st)
Field Goal Percentage: 43.8 (19th)
Rebounds: 42.5 (20th)
Assists: 21.6 (21st)
Offensive Rating: 104.5 (20th)
Defensive Rating: 111.2 (12th)
Net Rating: -6.6 (21st)
The Lakers went from top-10 in almost every statistical category all the way down to the bottom of the league, just barely beating out the Washington Wizards.
Their offense went stagnant and they were the worst three-point shooting team. Both James and Davis did not look like themselves at times and Danny Green was absolutely abysmal from distance, cashing in on just 25.0 percent of his attempts.
There is a chance the Lakers were not motivated to play hard during these seeding games because they knew their playoff spot was guaranteed. In all fairness, they did win their two most important games against the Clippers and Nuggets.
Also, remember the Lakers are still trying to implement new players into the offense such as Dion Waiters and JR Smith, which undoubtedly cause growing pains. It is also very possible James and Davis both believe they will be able to just ‘turn it on’ when the playoffs arrive on Aug. 18 and therefore did not give their all.
Avery Bradley’s absence was also very apparent as they failed to defend perimeter players as well as they did during the regular season, which does not bode well for their upcoming matchup against Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and the Blazers.
Regardless of what the issue was, the Lakers just were not running on all cylinders during their eight seeding games. Hopefully, a little bit of a rest and some tough practices will get them ready to face the cold-hearted Lillard and the Blazers.
There is more on the line this season for the Lakers than ever before.
Now, it is time for the Lakers to go silence all of the doubters, enter Zero Dark Thirty mode, and bring home another Larry O’Brien trophy to Los Angeles.