Lakers forward Anthony Davis attempts a layup against Kings center Alex Len during the first half Friday night at Staples Center. (Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)
Here are three observations — one for each overtime — from the Lakers’ 141-137 loss to the Sacramento Kings:
1) The Lakers are losing it?
After the Lakers had lost in triple overtime, Anthony Davis looked at the team’s sub-.500 record and swiftly healed the team’s woes with one small leap.
“We gotta keep fighting. You know, 10-11, I mean, we could go on a 10-game winning streak, 12-game winning streak, now the narrative is different,” Davis said sincerely. “You know, 10-game winning streak, we’re 20-11. Now we’ll shut everybody up.”
One quarter into this season, the Lakers haven’t had a winning streak of longer than three games, and that one they can thank the NBA scheduling gods for back-to-back home games with the dreadful Houston Rockets after a win against Cleveland at Staples Center.
The flippant belief that the Lakers are close to turning some sort of corner flies in the face of evidence when the Lakers have had to claw for everything no matter who they’re playing.
Davis said it’s because of who they are as a team, that opponents are rallying against a group with stars like LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and himself.
“We’re the Lakers, so any team we play, it’s gonna be a grind,” Davis said. “Everybody wants to beat the Lakers, A.D., Bron and Russ, and Melo … it’s evident that any time we play a team and the guys who’s struggling from three or struggling the field or whatever have great games against us.”
Maybe there’s another reason for that?
“They’re old and they can’t stay in front of anyone,” a rival assistant coach recently told The Times.
And Friday, they lost to the Kings because Sacramento shot a whole bunch of layups and because the Lakers couldn’t keep up.
2) Not so fine
James’ afternoon started with him getting fined $15,000 by the NBA for an obscene celebration — their sensibilities, not mine — in the Lakers’ win against Indiana.
Two nights later, the looks James got were even better, he said. Except this time, none of them went in. James was 2-of-13 shooting from three-point range, missing every perimeter jumper late in the game.
“I trust the work that I put in. And I’ll take those same looks on Sunday (against the Detroit Pistons) if the opportunity presents itself,” James said.
James called his game on Friday “horrible,” his seven turnovers equal to the rest of the Lakers’ starting lineup combined.
He said the Lakers can talk about being calm or about being without key players, but they also have to feel the sting from these results.
“Listen, we’re all disgusted at losses. That’s the way it is,” James said. “But also at the same time, you’ve got to stay even keel throughout the whole process and understand that we can get better from our losses, we can get better from our wins. We, obviously, would not like to be one game under .500 a fourth into the season. But we know we’ve got more room to improve — got a lot more room to improve.”
3) The worst of it
Through 21 games, the Lakers have treated their uneven performances as something that was to be expected, a necessary hurdle on their way to another NBA title.
“We knew coming into the season that nobody was going to give us nothing,” Davis said. “No one was going to feel sorry for us. No one was going to feel bad for us. We gotta go out and take it. And that’s the fun in it. It makes it all worth it in the end when you gotta grind for it and work for it like we have to. Holding the trophy at the end of the year is going to feel a lot better.”
If they do it, it’ll have be because the team has made some serious history.
A quick look at the records of eventual champions at the 25% mark shows that the best teams usually get off to great starts. Since the 1999-2000 season, no NBA champion has been under .500 this deep into the year.
One, the 2005 Miami Heat, was 11-10. Twelve teams, including the 2019-20 Lakers, were at least 10 games over .500 by this point.
“We knew the early season was gonna be bumpy,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “This season is about peaking at the right time, and understanding that we’re gonna use the 82-game season to learn each other, and to grow each day, each game. You want to win games like this, but there’s a big-picture mind-set that we’re taking with this team.”
If it works, they’ll be an exception and far from the rule.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.