The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the San Antonio Spurs for the second time this season to move to 2-3 on the year. In the loss, the team continued an alarming trend that will affect plenty of games.
The Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs squared off for the second time in five days and the result was the same: the Spurs emerged victoriously.
The first game between the two sides was an overtime thriller that resulted in 285 combined points. Game two held a much more conventional score, with the Spurs walking away with the 110-106 win.
The biggest story of the game is the Lakers’ late-game struggles that resulted in a Spurs comeback and Rajon Rondo‘s decision to pass on a wide-open layup attempt late in the game.
Los Angeles had an 11-point lead with two and a half minutes in the third quarter and shortly squandered it to make the fourth quarter a back and forth affair. San Antonio went on a 10-point run to end the third quarter and had a 106-100 lead with 1:31 to play.
The Lakers managed to make it a one-possession game and trailed by just three points in the team’s final possession. LeBron James kicked the ball to Rondo, who was cutting to the basket and had an easy two presented to him.
Instead of taking the two, Rondo kicked it out to Josh Hart, who made the pass back to LeBron, who was unable to tie the game. After a loose ball foul, Hart went to the line, made his first free throw and then intentionally missed the second to give the Lakers a chance of getting the rebound and basket.
Former Laker Pau Gasol grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Gasol made both free throws to put the game on ice.
Fittingly, is has been the free throw shooting that has held the Lakers back and was one of the team’s weaknesses last year. Los Angeles already lost the first game of the season series because of two missed LeBron James field goals and lost this game from a bad collective effort.
The Los Angeles Lakers made 11 of 18 free throws, good for 61.1 percent and 18.1 percent points behind the Spurs. San Antonio made 19 of 24 attempts at the line.
Los Angeles currently ranks 22nd in the NBA in free throw percentage for the 2018 season, making 73.1 percent of the shots from the charity stripe. The only playoff teams from last year behind the Lakers are the New Orleans Pelicans, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
LeBron and the Lakers are never going to be able to take that extra step in the league if the team cannot knock down the free throw shots a better rate. This is a team that gets to the basket a ton and is going to get fouled a lot this season. Not taking advantage of that is just leaving points on the table.
The best teams in the league are smart. The Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics could take full advantage of the Lakers’ shooting woes if a playoff series ever presented itself. While other contending teams are also struggling this year (Houston Rockets), seven of the top 10 free-throw shooting teams and 11 of the top 14 last season were playoff teams.
Good teams take advantage of free points. The Los Angeles Lakers are a very good team but will never reach that next level without, at-worst, average free throw shooting.