After a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the worst teams in the league, the Los Angeles Lakers were handed their 21st loss of the season and were at the edge of dropping out of playoffs.
It was the Lakers’ eighth loss without their star player LeBron James, who suffered a groin injury during the game against Golden State Warriors on Christmas.
During the stretch without James, the Lakers’ young core took over the responsibility and pressure, but their performances were not enough to help the team win.
During the 18-point loss to Utah Jazz on Jan. 11, the Lakers’ young backcourt duo Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart struggled to make shots. Together they scored only 13 points, making five shots out of 19 attempts, including two three-pointers out of nine attempts.
Second-year rookie Kyle Kuzma also struggled after he scored a career-high 41 points the previous game against the Detroit Pistons. He made four shots out of 18 attempts, scoring only 11 points. Kuzma’s forward partner Brandon Ingram had a decent shooting performance with six made out of 11 attempts, but on the foul line he made only two out of six.
The poor performances of the Lakers’ young core were not coincidental. In another big 22-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Lakers’ guard Ball was scoreless, and his backcourt partner Hart was three out of 12 with 10 points scored.
The Lakers’ bench also looked worn-out. As a finger injury kept bench leader Rajon Rondo out, bench players were not at their best. In the game against the Cavaliers, Lakers’ bench shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was zero for six out of three-point line.
The recent performances reflected the disadvantages of the Lakers throughout this season. Their three-point percentage (33.5 percent) ranked in the bottom three, and their foul line percentage (68.3 percent) was one of the worst throughout NBA history.
James’ ability helped the Lakers cover their shortcomings, but these problems will potentially prevent the team from reaching bigger goals in the playoffs. The young core of the Lakers has never played in the playoffs before, and their shortcomings would be aimed at by the opponents.
If the young players cannot show more of their potential, it is possible that trades might occur. For the past two years, there have been chances for the Lakers to acquire all-star players such as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard by trading their young cores away, but the manager of the Lakers chose to trust their players.