The Los Angeles Lakers put forth another abysmal defensive effort on Sunday against the Toronto Raptors, falling 108-103 and dropping to 17-23 on the season. Steve Nash was very critical of the Lakers' performance after the loss, telling Bruce Arthur of the National Post that he thought the effort was "lazy":
"I thought our effort was very spotty, a little bit lazy, cutting corners," said Nash, 38. "I know we flew across the country and played a very early game by West Coast time, but for me that's not an excuse, that's a sign. You've got to come ready to play early, and I didn't feel like we came ready to play. I thought we cut too many corners at too many times of the game, and dug too big a hole to climb out of."
Indeed, it was just another day in a Lakers season that has become a nightmare. Los Angeles fell behind 25-9 in the first quarter despite the re-insertion of Pau Gasol back into the starting lineup. The Lakers were able to get back into the game, but could not get defensive stops when it counted. Adding insult to injury was an ejection of Dwight Howard in the first half and a terrible 10-of-32 shooting night from Kobe Bryant.
The season is now almost halfway over, and Los Angeles still needs to improve in a ton of areas if they want to avoid becoming one of the biggest failures in NBA history. The Lakers are three games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff in the Western Conference, and Nash says the team must quickly develop a sense of urgency:
"I don't know if it's hit home enough that we've got to make ground up, and we've got to do it quickly," Nash said.
A good start would be to put in the necessary effort on the defensive end. Howard's back injury is certainly limiting his effectiveness on that end, but there's still little excuse for how poor the Lakers have been defensively this year. Los Angeles is 26th in the NBA in points allowed, and while some of that is a function of their quick pace, they are still just tied for 18th in defensive efficiency. That must improve if the Lakers are going to turn this thing around.