After suffering a tough loss to the defending champion Bucks, the Lakers (26-29) championship-or-bust roster is searching for answers.
According to ESPN, the Lakers are facing an uneasy admission that’s building up around the locker room: “The roster is not working, and something must be done to get the team back on course.”
The whooping the Lakers took only proved the mounting suspicion the Lakers realize maybe the truth. Milwaukee built a lead as large as 30 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo posted a dominant 44 point, 14 rebounds, eight assists, and two blocks night. Even four-time MVP LeBron James had to admit there’s a massive gap between the Lakers and the Bucks.
“It tells me we ain’t on their level,” LeBron James said. “I mean, I could have told you that before the game.”
“Obviously, you always kind of use games to see where you are at that moment, but we know where we are at this moment: sitting at a couple, few games under .500,” he said. “Haven’t played the basketball that we’d like to play.”
When the Lakers did wake up and start playing up to their championship standard, it came in the fourth quarter with James and Anthony Davis leading the way after Coach Frank Vogel sitting former MVP Russell Westbrook on the bench for the third time this season. During that stint, LA outscored Milwaukee, 37-28, cutting the lead to 10 after Malik Monk threw down a dunk midway through the final frame.
The Lakers comeback bid ultimately fell short, however, falling to the Bucks 131-116. In the closing seconds, Westbrook could be seen trying to brighten up the mood of his superstar teammates with pats on the head and shoulders of James and Davis.
“Listen, I want to help AD, I want to help Russ. AD wants to help me, help Russ, and Russ wants to help us,” James said about the exchange. “Obviously, lately, Russ hasn’t felt like he had an opportunity, or with the opportunities, he’s been given, he hasn’t helped us as much as he would like. We haven’t done a great job of helping him.”
Following the game, Westbrook, who accepted his previous benching, did not take too kindly to not being on the floor as the Lakers attempted to close in on upsetting the Bucks on Tuesday. When asked what he has to do for Vogel to play him late in the fourth quarter, Westbrook had this to say:
“I shouldn’t have to hit any benchmark, to be honest,” Westbrook said. “I’ve put a lot of work, and I’ve got a lot of respect in this game. I don’t got to hit a benchmark, or I shouldn’t have to. I’ve earned a right to be in closing lineups.”
According to Westbrook, some of the Lakers’ woes could be solved by “creating some consistency within our team, which we don’t have at the moment.” That remark might ring true once you realize Vogel put out a 27th different starting lineup in their 55th game of the season and that Westbrook, James, and Davis have all played together a grand total of 18 times this season.
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, the Lakers have only made Talen Horton-Tucker available to trade. They also decided they didn’t want to move Westbrook or make a midseason coaching change. It remains unclear if the Lakers have any assets that opposing franchises would like to acquire after trading away so much of their youth through the years.
The Lakers will look to get back into the winning column on Wednesday against the Trail Blazers (21-34).