Lakers flop against New Orleans as home crowd boos lackluster effort – Press Enterprise

LOS ANGELES — The unmistakable ring of disapproval has been building over the past few weeks, even though the Lakers’ home games haven’t sold out like they used to.

It reached a crescendo on Sunday night, with Lakers fans booing their own team.

In the third quarter, the Lakers’ disastrous season slipped to its lowest point yet when they were beaten by 19 points in frame by the New Orleans Pelicans — one of the teams they tracked in Western Conference standings. Between turnstile defense, turnovers that fly all over the court, and punches up and down from their energetic guests, the Lakers were outperformed in every category.

In response to the underperformance, more than a handful of the 17,536 spectators left their seats and flocked to the exits, including team owner and Governor Jeanie Buss, who left her seat in fateful third place with a few minutes to go.

The 123-95 loss to the Pelicans (25-36) was important because the Lakers (27-33) have now lost 9 of their last 12 games and are now just 2.5 games away from making the play-in tournament of the NBA overall. But in it it was evident that a kind of spark, a sense of pride, had gone out for a team that was quickly being forgotten.

“I don’t have an answer for tonight,” LeBron James said. “Obviously you’re talking about the future, we need to find that out. Who knows what may happen in the next few weeks. But no replies tonight from the six-minute point of the second quarter through the third.

Despite multiple pledges that they were aiming for a post-All-Star push, the Lakers got off to a slow start again and only got worse. Nothing highlighted the lack of focus and effort quite like their 22 turnovers versus just 15 team assists (seven of those assists came in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach).

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, the team’s two top players, were the main culprits in this disgraceful statistic, with each star notching seven turnovers. While James managed to lead the Lakers by 32 points, Westbrook struggled to make other types of impact. It took him almost 43 minutes to record his first assist in garbage time, shooting 5 for 15 from the floor for 16 points.

Westbrook thinks opposing teams are determined to outperform the Lakers — and it’s working. In his estimation, the Lakers are in a rut.

“I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but I think what’s happened with the season, injuries and other things, the crowd that’s booing today, it’s a lot for people,” he said. “That can be a lot for someone who isn’t used to it, or it can take a toll.”

The Lakers’ effort was disheveled early: They fought back early in the second half, but their 16 first-half turnovers gave New Orleans an advantage. After shooting from recently acquired trader CJ McCollum (22 points) and 19 points and 8 assists from former Laker Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans led 51-40 at halftime.

It has been typical of the Lakers lately to give up a double-digit lead before eventually sparking a comeback. But from the dressing room, they crashed instead. New Orleans quickly amassed 16 points in the first five minutes of the second half, en route to a 44-25 blowout in the third quarter alone.

Coach Frank Vogel started looking for answers with his substitutions, but nothing could stop the tide. After checking in for the first time in six games, DeAndre Jordan attempted a full-court outlet pass that landed well in the courtside courts — a lowlight that was comical but represented how far the Lakers have fallen:

They’ve become the laughing stock of the NBA.

“When things aren’t going well, it’s natural to lose your breath sometimes,” said one thoughtful bird, tapping with a pencil while grimly eyeing the stat sheet. “Flush it. Leave this behind us.”


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