Laker Struggles to make it 3 Pointer, but they lost

Laker Struggles to make it 3 Pointer, but they lost

As Lakers guard Russell Westbrook went up for a 3-pointer against the Clippers, his home crowd groaned before the ball even left his hand. The shot clanked off the rim, justifying the fans’ apprehension.

Westbrook missed all six of his 3-pointers in the game on Thursday. It was a microcosm of the two biggest issues facing the Lakers this season: Westbrook and shooting. Again and again on Thursday night, the Lakers faithful remained subdued as the team kept shooting. And missing. And shooting. And missing some more. There were enough bricks that the Lakers could offer themselves up as an infrastructure project.

Through the first two games of the season, the Lakers have shot an almost unfathomable 19 for 85 from 3-point range (22.4 percent). That was the biggest factor in a blowout loss to Golden State in the season opener on Tuesday and in a 103-97 loss to the Clippers on Thursday night.

In a league where deep shots have evolved from being quirky additions to being the driving force of contemporary scoring, the Lakers constructed their roster without enough players equipped to maximize that style of play. This summer, the Lakers let more formidable shooters like Wayne Ellington and Malik Monk walk, and instead opted to bring in the athletic guard Lonnie Walker IV and Dennis Schröder, neither of whom is known for perimeter prowess.

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It’s not that the Lakers are in a shooting slump. If someone put tap dancing shoes on a flamingo, one would not say the flamingo was struggling to be Fred Astaire. It’s that — as LeBron James factually noted after Tuesday night’s drubbing by Golden State — the Lakers just don’t have many good shooters. They weren’t built for this.

“We’re getting great looks, but it could also be the team giving us great looks,” James said. “To be completely honest, we’re not a team that’s constructed of great shooting. That’s just the truth of the matter. It’s not like we’re sitting here with a lot of lasers on our team.”

And yet the Lakers have launched a bevy of 3s. The penetration skills of Anthony Davis and James have generated open looks outside for other Lakers, but both Golden State and the Clippers also continuously dared the Lakers to shoot.

“They want to give us those shots?” Lakers Coach Darvin Ham said Thursday. “We will accept it wholeheartedly. That’s the way we want to play. We want to play fast, physical and free.”

He added: “We see these guys making shots in practice and shootaround. They’ve got to do the on the game floor. It’s as simple as that.”

The Lakers climbed back from multiple deficits on Thursday to keep the game close down the stretch. But they weren’t able to sustain their periods of strong play. After the game, James was asked about his “laser” comments.

“I love the way we’re playing basketball right now,” James said. “We’re really sharing the ball offensively. We’re moving bodies. And I think we will begin to knock down shots.”

James does have a good reason for optimism, but it has to do with the other side of the ball. In the loss to Golden State, the Lakers had a defensive rating of 107.0, which would have been good for fourth in the N.B.A. last season, a fact that guard Patrick Beverley pointed out after the Thursday morning shootaround. The Lakers were even better on Thursday with a rating of 100.0. When the Lakers fell into deficits against the Clippers, they turned up the defensive intensity and forced several turnovers to get out in transition to get back in the game.

“I’m definitely not going to sit here and harp on what we can’t do every single game,” James said. “That’s not leadership. What I know we can do: We can defend our ass off.”

The Clippers turned the ball over 22 times Thursday, contributing to some of the Lakers’ 15 fast-break points. This is where Westbrook’s skills can be useful to the Lakers. He had five steals Thursday, and as he is known to do, immediately focused on pushing the ball down the floor off those forced turnovers.

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