The Los Angeles Lakers dropped their sixth consecutive game Friday night in blowout fashion. The Oklahoma City Thunder walked into the Staples Center and had their way with the slumping Lakers, winning 116-101.
Kevin Durant added 42 points, and L.A. didn’t have an answer for the dynamic scorer.
Injuries have certainly been at the core of some of this year’s problems for the Lakers, but that isn’t the extent of their issues.
Mike D’Antoni was pegged as the potential savior of the team’s early-season struggles. We’re finding out now that those problems extend further than the head coach.
Older teams will struggle with injuries; that can’t be avoided. But teams have to push through. Chicago has dealt with the absence of Derrick Rose all season, and it is performing admirably in his absence.
Likewise, the New York Knicks were without Amar’e Stoudemire for much of the season, and they are still playing at the top of their game.
Injuries that can’t be overcome are due to poor roster building or an inability by a coaching staff to adapt to situations.
How hard is it to create an offense that clicks with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard at its core? D’Antoni isn’t failing because of injuries; his team’s defense is drowning out there on the court.
While he definitely isn’t known for being a strong defensive-minded coach, D’Antoni’s team is struggling in all aspects of defensive performance.
Pick-and-roll defense, isolation plays, transition defense and blown assignments are making the Lakers look silly on their opponents’ end of the court.
The proof is in the numbers.
Los Angeles is remarkably worse defensively since Mike Brown and Bernie Bickerstaff yielded the team to D’Antoni’s control. The Lakers are giving up 101.7 points per game this season after surrendering well under 100 points per game in the team’s first 10 games with the former coaches in charge.
That shift isn’t an accident.
It has a lot to do with quick shots offensively and even the return of Steve Nash at point guard. Nash, 38, has never been known for his defensive acumen, and he hasn’t gotten much better in the twilight of his career.
Injuries have created depth problems all season long and have exacerbated the defensive struggles of the team, especially on defense.
D’Antoni’s team may get it together before the postseason, but they’re a sinking ship right now.