The Los Angeles Lakers have been a great team all year, going 52-19 and having the best record in the Western Conference. They have two superstars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and a strong coaching staff as Frank Vogel has performed exceptionally well.
But there have been some issues that have plagued the Lakers all season. They managed to overcome them due to LeBron's and AD's brilliance, but they have shown up again during the first game of the NBA Playoffs. The Lakers fell to the Portland Trail Blazers 100-93 on Tuesday night, as the Lakers showed some glaring issues on the court.
Here are the main problems with the Los Angeles Lakers right now.
The Lakers shot a putrid 35.1% from the field during Game 1, including 15.6% from three. They looked out of depth, and the main shooters were ice cold. Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell Pope had 11 points combined, while AD went 0-5 from three and LeBron 1-5 from three. Green was a poor 2-8, while KCP went 0-5.
The Lakers must hit outside shots because it is absolutely essential to have shooters in form when AD and LeBron get them open shots. LeBron will be a willing passer all series, as evidenced by his 16 assists last night, so shooters must hit shots. The Trail Blazers were on fire from deep, and Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are going to remain that way for the series. The Lakers must make shots if they want to keep up on offense.
2. Dwight Howard Needs More Minutes
Dwight Howard only averaged 18.9 MPG this season, but he did put up 7.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG. Dwight has shown he can be productive in spurts because he has the size and strength to finish down low. If the Lakers miss shots, Howard is probably the best offensive rebounder on the team. He was a 3-time Defensive Player of the Year winner as well, so he clearly has the ability and defensive awareness to be a factor on the other end as well.
The likes of Javale McGee did not produce much, playing 13 minutes and ending up with 6 points. Dwight must play to counter Nurkic and Whiteside, who are big bodies that can bang down low and provide size and length. Howard is not a superstar anymore, but he's the best big man the Lakers have right now.
3. LeBron James Must Focus On Scoring
LeBron James had a great game last night... on paper. He had a monster triple-double (23 points, 17 rebounds, 16 assists) and really did his best in being a facilitator and making the right plays. But it's not what was needed for Game 1. In fact, this is not what the Lakers need if they want to win a championship let alone progress past the first round.
James must score more than points and must average over his season 25.3 PPG. LeBron must average close to 30 PPG if the Lakers win a title because Anthony Davis cannot be relied on to score all the points. Having two guys close to 30 PPG will boost the team's chances of winning a title because the Lakers do not have enough consistency from their supporting cast.
LeBron James will do what he does best, which is to assist the basketball, but he must focus on scoring to put pressure on the defense for 48 minutes. LeBron must attract double teams consistently to open the floor up more for his teammates, rather than always looking for the pass.
4. Anthony Davis Efficiency
Anthony Davis had a poor shooting night, 8-24 from the field. That is simply not going to get it done. If AD scores 28 points, that is decent, but he must do it at a more efficient clip. Davis is required to handle the bulk of the scoring because LeBron is essentially the team's primary playmaker. For a Lakers team with only two stars, Davis must average over 30 PPG. But if he scores less, he must be efficient.
The Portland Trail Blazers interior is much better with Jusuf Nurkic back, so Anthony Davis looked more comfortable shooting outside jumpers. The further you get from the rim, the lower the shooting percentage. Davis must play closer to the basket, dominate the inside, and play like the best player in the series if the Lakers want to progress past the on-fire Trail Blazers.
5. Lakers Need One More Player To Step Up
The Lakers must find their third piece. Every LeBron James team that won an NBA title had a key third piece. With Miami, it was Chris Bosh and his timely rebounding and shot-making. With Cleveland, it was Kevin Love who could play clutch defense and rebound. The Lakers must find that third guy to help LeBron James (age 35) and Anthony Davis.
Kyle Kuzma played decent with 14 points off the bench, but he must average closer to 18 PPG for the Lakers to have a shot to win it all. The Los Angeles Clippers have two guys in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell averaging over 18 PPG, so they do not have to rely only on Kawhi and Paul George. Kuzma must step up, otherwise, it will be on Dion Waiters or JR Smith.
Waiters and Smith were signed late into the season to make up for the losses of Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo. If Waiters and Smith can both average double-digit scoring numbers, the Lakers will be in good shape. Danny Green is too inconsistent to be a legitimate threat, so either Waiters or Smith must be the guy.