Few are going to go quite as far as Charles Barkley and bring out the broom after a narrow Lakers loss to Portland in Game 1 of the first round, but it’s clear after Los Angeles’ poor showing that their shot-making woes and poor depth did not get left behind in the seeding round.
The Lakers put up just 93 points against Portland’s depleted defense, shooting 35.1 percent from the field and 15.6 percent from deep. As Seth Partnow noted at The Athletic, they shot just 2-for-11 from the corners, and set a record since tracking data started being counted for transition misses in one game. Altogether, Partnow wrote, the Lakers set a record for the single worst “shooting luck” game as measured by Second Spectrum data since 2013-14.
But the Lakers, a veteran team with plenty of experienced playoff players, certainly are not packing it in after one measly loss.
“We’re getting good looks. It’s just a matter of taking our time and knocking them down,” Anthony Davis told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “That’s been our whole little M.O. in the restart, not being able to consistently knock down the three-ball. We shot like 15 percent tonight. We have to make sure that when the ball comes to us, we take our time and knock down the shot.”
What’s worse, there isn’t even one Laker we can point to as the main culprit of the team’s icy shooting. It’s a team-wide cold streak that’s lasted the entirety of the restart. Added Davis, “Guys are sinking in the paint and daring us to make shots, and right now we’re not doing that. It’s just making it tough on everybody.”
This leads back to the superstars. The counting stats from Davis and LeBron James were strong as ever, but they were not themselves, shooting a combined 17-for-44 from the field.
Though Portland presents a great matchup for James athletically, the MVP candidate who was in peak form back in March before the hiatus has not been present in Orlando. That’s where Davis believes it’s his responsibility to pick up the slack and provide support for James.
“There’s always going to be critics when you’re playing with the best player in the game,” Davis told Yahoo Sports. “My job is to relieve pressure off of him. But I don’t listen to what anybody has to say about my play or the play of my teammates. I do have a responsibility to play at a high level and help make things easier for LeBron. We’re not panicking. We’re going to figure this thing out. Our shots will start to fall.”
The stats show that when James initiated offense, the Lakers were quite good. It was all the other shots that led to the loss.
Other Lakers' shooting percentages in Game 1:
When set up by LeBron: 62%
When not set up by LeBron: 18%
— Dan Feldman (@DanFeldmanNBA) August 19, 2020
What Davis is saying is not unlike the message Damian Lillard came with during his postgame interview on TNT: It’s just one game. There are too many stars in this series for it to play out in any sort of predictable, routine way. As Davis said, the Lakers will respond, and they can’t possibly get less lucky than they did on Tuesday night. But shot-making is an issue that’s plagued them for a month now, no matter who’s played or who the opponent is.