Major Problems LA Lakers Must Fix Immediately

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2013

Major Problems LA Lakers Must Fix Immediately

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    The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 125-101 on Thursday night in a game that exposed nearly all of the team's fatal flaws.

    Mike D'Antoni's group found themselves in a massive hole early after failing to record a single point over the game's first five minutes, while Blake Griffin outscored the Lakers 18-17 after one quarter of play.

    Although the Lakers flashed glimpses of promise in the second quarter, the team's defense simply couldn't find ways to contain the Clippers' lethal attack, as they allowed Chris Paul and Co. to post 64 first-half points and 101 through the game's first 36 minutes.

    With just 28 games to play after the All-Star break, the Lakers appear to be in serious danger of missing out on the postseason party.

Inability to Defeat the West's Elite

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    The Lakers' loss to the Clippers on Thursday evening proved yet again that the men in purple and gold simply don't have the chemistry necessary to compete with the big boys of the Western Conference for a full 48 minutes.

    In fact, according to ESPN Stats and Info, the Lakers were 1-8 against the West's best entering Thursday night and fell to 1-9 with the loss:

    The Lakers enter tonight 1-8 against the Western Conference's top 4 teams (Thunder, Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies)

    — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 15, 2013

    To be a team worthy of the playoffs, the Lakers must first learn to play up to the level of teams who have earned their status as elites in the NBA's most competitive conference.

    As it stands, the Lakers now trail the Houston Rockets by 3.5 games for the eighth seed in the Western Conference and sit half a game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for ninth place.

Three-Point Shooting

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    Wondering where the Los Angeles Lakers' offense has gone? Look to their three-point shooting.

    Thursday night marked just the second time the Lakers have scored 100 points (and they just barely hit the mark in garbage time) over their last seven games, with the only other occasion a 100-93 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats back on February 8.

    According to Lakers sideline reporter Mike Trudell, the Lakers' three-point shooting has dropped off considerably since the month of December:

    LAL were 6th in NBA in 3-pt% in Dec., but all the way down to 14th. Teams allowing wide-open looks, but tonight, LAL are 0 for 8.

    — Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) February 15, 2013

    On Thursday night, the Lakers shot a meager 30 percent (6-of-20) from beyond the arc, while the Los Angeles Clippers simply couldn't miss, shooting 16-of-30 (53.3 percent) from deep, including 5-of-7 shooting from Chauncey Billups.

    Jodie Meeks was brought aboard to be the Lakers' primary three-point threat, but after racking up the majority of his minutes in garbage time, it looks like the team's starters will need to start picking up the slack from distance.

Turnovers

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    In addition to the Lakers' lackluster three-point shooting, one of the team's biggest problems in 2013 has been the high rate at which players have turned the ball over.

    Thursday evening's loss to the Clippers showed just how sloppy the Lakers can get and how lazy their defense ultimately becomes in transition.

    The Lakers turned the ball over 16 times on Thursday night, and the Clippers capitalized, scoring 23 points off those 16 turnovers.

    If we're going to point fingers at egregious offenders, we must point them directly at Kobe Bryant, who amassed six turnovers against a team particularly adept at converting on fast breaks.

    If the Lakers hope to turn playoff dreams into reality, cutting down on turnovers needs to be the first area in which the team improves.

Lack of Size

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    Despite outscoring the Clippers 54-36 in the paint on Thursday evening, the Lakers continue to miss Pau Gasol's length down on the blocks.

    With Dwight Howard at a clear disability due to an accumulation of injuries, the Lakers had no answer for Blake Griffin, who totaled 22 points on 11-of-15 shooting.

    In addition to Griffin simply bullying Howard in the post, the Clippers' guards showed no hesitation driving into the lane, something that the Lakers' front office did not envision happening when they acquired Howard over the summer.

    If anything, Howard was supposed to discourage pesky guards from penetrating the lane. That has not been the case whatsoever during his inaugural season in purple and gold.

    Perhaps the most telling sign of the Clippers' fearless approach in the paint came in the form of ageless wonder Chauncey Billups, who successfully attacked the rim as Howard sat and watched the 36-year-old blow right by him.

    While Antawn Jamison may be a perfectly serviceable stretch 4 on the offensive end, he doesn't possess the will or the physical ability to hold down the interior in Gasol's absence.

    With Gasol and Jordan Hill sidelined, adding a big body at the trade deadline would appear to be atop the team's to-do list.

The Entire Defense

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    The Los Angeles Lakers' entire defense is in need of repair, and a five-day layoff isn't going to help fix things.

    As a team, the Los Angeles Clippers poured in 16 three-pointers on the evening, with the Lakers' defensive rotations looking painfully slow.

    In fact, the Lakers' perimeter defense was so bad on Thursday night that Matt Barnes was able to bust his three-point shooting slump, knocking down three of six shots from beyond the arc. 

    In addition to porous perimeter defense, the Lakers continue to lack the energy required to disrupt the flow of any offense, much less a high-caliber one like the Clippers possess.

    The Lakers rarely show active hands in order to disrupt passing lanes, as they allow opponents to pick their spots and open up big leads that put them in compromising positions.