The Los Angeles Lakers were in for a tough challenge in Toronto against the Raptors on Wednesday night. With both Anthony Davis and LeBron James out, head coach Darvin Ham was going to have to be creative in finding a way to help his team come out on top.
Unfortunately, things got off to a rough start in the first half as the Lakers fell behind early, giving up the first 11 points of the game and trailing by 23 at the half.
The Lakers did fight back in the second half, getting it to within decent striking distance, but were never able to get within single digits. Even still, Ham was satisfied with the fight the Lakers showed after the message he gave to his team at the half about their lack of competitiveness early, via NBA.com:
“I didn’t show any film at halftime or anything like that, I just got on them about being competitive, and playing together and being organized,” Ham said after the loss. “Some teams, they’ll come out blazing hot and you’re gonna have nights like that […] But the totality of our group, and the totality of our program, our franchise needs to be built on being competitive and being together at all times and I just felt that wasn’t the case in the first half.
“But I said what I had to say, left them to it, and they came out and they pulled themselves together and made it a competitive game, and competed like we’ve been accustomed to doing this year and what we’re trying to implement and be consistent at going forward. So as disappointed as I am in losing the game, you never like to lose, I’m not upset, I’m not distraught because we pulled together and we competed like we should’ve been from the start of the game. We actually did that in the second half so I’m fine with that.”
As for what caused the Lakers to fall behind in the first place, Ham pointed to the size of the Raptors as presenting an issue, as well as the team’s inability to take care of the ball:
“It’s a huge factor,” Ham said when talking about the size of Toronto. “A couple of times I looked out there and Gary Trent Jr. was the smallest one on the floor, he’s 6’6. So it’s like you got guys out there that’s 6’9, athletic, can dribble, pass, and shoot, it’s a helluva challenge to try to overcome. Boucher knocked down a couple shots and we all know Siakam is an All-Star, OG is playing like an All-Star, Scottie Barnes is gonna be an All-Star. So even when VanVleet wouldn’t be on the floor they still present a challenge.
“You have to execute, you have to screen them, you have to match their physicality. You can’t come down and mishandle your offense because in the first half I felt like our bad offense became their good offense. We’re in the half court, dead ball, after a made shot we handled them pretty well. But just being careless with the ball and rushing our offense and not getting organized, not getting to our proper spacing it bit us in the behind a little bit. I’m just happy again, we came out in the second half and it was a little bit different.”
The Raptors undoubtedly present some unique issues that make them a difficult matchup even if the Lakers were completely healthy. Ham is all about the team being competitive and playing together, which he feels they ultimately did late but it was simply too late.
But if the Lakers can continue to follow those things then they will at least give themselves a chance to win on any night, which is what Ham is looking for.
Lakers won’t trade both first-round picks without getting an All-Star back
Something else that would help the Lakers be more competitive on a regular basis is improving the depth and the team does have the means to do so. Most notable are their 2027 and 2029 first-round draft picks, but the team remains reluctant to move them.
The latest reports say that the plan for the Lakers remains the same in that they will not move both unprotected picks unless they are getting an All-Star caliber player in return which is not the case at the moment. But things could always change as the trade deadline gets closer.
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