Mendoza: Lakers need James to step up

All Write

ARE the Los Angeles Lakers relaxing, willing to lose and not giving a damn about missing the beat of their game?

They are not only 2-3, win-loss in games they had played in the NBA restart which, from any angle you look at it, underscores ugliness all around. If they did it, doing it, intentionally — play half-baked basketball — is it because they have clinched the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference? No need to push the button, the envelope? Playing it easy is of strategic importance as it means conserving energy for the much tougher grind in the playoffs? Unnecessary extra effort, sure, can avoid, if not minimize, injuries?

So many questions, so easy to answer them all.

Suddenly, the team that has missed the playoffs five straight seasons can now even afford to wallow in luxury amid “designed” defeats with embraced mediocrity seemingly a tactical ploy since Day One.

LeBron James, their acknowledged ace, even took the night off, citing a hurting groin, in a defeat to the Rockets in their fifth game in the NBA bubble.

They are the West’s No. 1, yes, and the league’s No. 2 overall as well. Handsome figures despite their unpresentable offensive numbers.

How could they have achieved such lofty standings when, of the 22 teams in the NBA bubble in Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, Florida, the Lakers ranked dead-last in three major departments of the game upon the NBA return on July 31?

The Lakers are last in field goal percentage (0.408), last in three-point percentage (0.234), last in points per game and second-to-the-last in free throw percentage (0.729).

Surely, all this grime will be water under the bridge once the Lakers win Game One of the playoffs and live up to expectations by winning their 17th NBA title in two months’ time.

In his last four games, James, who plays Indiana Aug. 9, averaged 19.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists and was 27 percent from three-point country.

Ugly. Before the NBA restart, he was 25.7 points, 10.6 assists and 7.9 rebounds a game and 35 percent from the three.

James’ game dipping divines disaster.


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