The Los Angeles Lakers ended Sunday night by collecting their fourth defeat in as many games, as the Detroit Piston came to Staples Center and erased a 14-point first quarter deficit to race past the Lakers 102-97.
Tobias Harris scored 23 points and hit the game clinching three-pointer with 30.5 seconds remaining to give the struggling Pistons their first win in four games. Marcus Morris also contributed 23 points in the victory, and Detroit center Andre Drummond pulled down 17 rebounds to go along with 15 points.
Lou Williams led LA with 26 points off the bench, while Starting point guard D'Angelo Russell scored 20 points in the defeat. No other starter scored in double figures on a night when the Lakers shot 43.4 percent from the field and only made six of their 23 attempts from beyond the three-point arc.
The Lakers appeared to have picked themselves up off the mat when they won three of four games in early January, but four straight defeats put LA at 30 losses through 45 games. No team in the Western Conference has as many defeats, and only the Brooklyn Nets have more losses in the entire Association. Of course, the Lakers have played the most games in the NBA, but the losses have come fast and hard.
LA has lost 20 of 25 games following a 10-10 start to the season.
"For whatever reason, it hasn't hit home with us yet that...the energy and the focus has to be there for the majority of the game," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "We still seem to get a little bit careless once we build up a lead and we're playing and we're having some success. It sounds like a broken record, but we're going to keep preaching it and we're going to get there. We obviously haven't gotten over that yet."
At this point, what can Walton say that hasn't been said before?
"Nothing," Walton responded. "You just keep doing it. Honestly, we all know we got a young team here. Down the stretch, we're playing teenagers, and 20-year-olds and 21-year-olds, and this is a grown man's league. Are we good enough to win? Absolutely, we are. But it takes making mistakes, and there's no formula that tells you this is exactly when it happens."
Walton added, "Different people get it at different times. Some people never get it. Some people get it right away. I'm very confident that as a group, we're going to get it, and our young guys are going to figure it out, and because of this type of feeling and going through this as a group, they're going to be a very tough team in the future."
One of the young players Walton referenced was 19-year-old Ivica Zubac. The rookie center earned key minutes when backup center Tarik Black left the game due to an ankle injury. Zubac played well and scored four points, pulled down five rebounds, blocked two shots and even handed off an assist in only eight and a half minutes on the court.
"He looked good," Walton said about the rookie center.
The coach added, "We've been talking as a staff of trying to get 'Zu' some minutes because we feel like he's earned them. He's been busting his butt doing D-League and with us. In practice, he looked really good in the games."
As the losses pile up and development moves onto the front burner even more, Zubac's development and extra minutes on the court could be one of the positive for fans to clutch onto if the team continues to struggle in terms of wins.
Walton summed up the team's situation, "We don't know when we are finally going to get over the hump and stay over. We have gotten over it and then we take a step or two back and that's pretty normal with young teams in the NBA. But it can be frustrating at times when you see the same type of thing happening multiple times."