The roughly two days between Thursday night and Saturday night encapsulated the inconsistency that a young team like the Lakers has to deal with.
LeBron James did his job from a statistical standpoint, with 27 points and 12 assists. But it takes a team to overcome even the lowly Pelicans, and after the game, James called out his fellow Lakers for lacking a “sense of urgency.”
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) February 24, 2019
“How many know what’s at stake if you’ve never been there?” James asked. “I’m … kind of playing devil’s advocate, you know? It’s kind of a fine line when you talk about that, because when you’ve never been there or know what it takes to actually shoot for something like that, sometimes you’re afraid to get uncomfortable.”
“So you got to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he added, per ESPN. “So I’m not saying that’s what we are as a whole. It kind of looks that way at times, that sometimes we’re afraid to be uncomfortable and kind of get out of our comfort zone and kind of, you know, have that sense of urgency from the jump, and not be afraid to actually go out and fail to succeed. So I mean, we have, what — 23 games left? We’ll see what happens.”
For many of the young Lakers, like Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, this is the first time they’ve ever been in a playoff race, so growing pains should be expected.
They may not fully realize the level of effort, starting with the opening tip-off, that’s needed on a nightly basis. The Lakers allowed 42 points to the Pelicans in the first quarter Saturday despite the absence of Davis, who’s easily New Orleans’ best player.
On the same night the Lakers were upset by the Pelicans, the underdog Kings knocked off the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
The Lakers and Kings are both trailing the Clippers for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, but Saturday night’s games put further distance between two of those teams.
The Lakers are two games behind the Kings, who themselves are 1.5 games behind the Clippers. James is at risk of not making the postseason for the first time since the 2004-05 season, his second in the league.
The last time the Lakers made the playoffs, in the 2012-13 season, James was still winning championships in Miami.
“The last few years, everyone’s so accustomed to the losses that I’m just not accustomed to,” James said after Saturday’s loss. “I will never get comfortable with losing. So losing Game 1 to Houston (at home), it feels the same way as losing Game 59 in New Orleans for me. That’s just how I’m built. That’s who I am.”
Kuzma, meanwhile, seemed to echo James’ sentiments that the effort from the entire team wasn’t up to par for a team fighting to make the postseason.
“I just think we got to be consistent,” Kuzma said. “We got to be consistent with everything. We got to be consistent with our body languages, our effort. As a whole, we’re just not consistent.”
The Lakers will play at Memphis on Monday before a rematch with the Pelicans on Wednesday in Los Angeles. It’s not clear if Davis will play in that game, as New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said it was a team decision to sit him against the Lakers on Saturday, ESPN reported.
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