(Photo: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
The short-handed Los Angeles Lakers gave the Golden State Warriors a fight at Oracle Arena on Monday night; in the end losing 108-105, but surprising considering this was the NBA’s best team, record-wise, playing in a place where the Warriors have lost only 2 times out of 32 tries this season, the best home record in the NBA.
That moxie that the Lakers showed on Monday to give the Warriors a game was not an outlier, at least not lately as they’ve put together admirable showings in the month of March; however, you can’t tell by the Lakers 1-8 record in the month, their worst of any full month this season.
While the Lakers haven’t been able to muster many wins in the month, they’ve played their best ball of the season, most notably on the defensive end. The graph below illustrates how the Lakers have played in the month of March compared to how they’ve performed the rest of the season.
The Lakers have lost not lost a game by more than 7 points in the month of March and they’ve faced elite competition such as the two teams leading their respective conferences, the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors.
Their improved defensive performance in March has lifted them out of the cellar in the NBA in terms of defensive stats.
While the Lakers only rank in the middle of the pack as a team in key defensive categories in the month of March it’s a stark improvement from how they’ve performed for most of the year which is at the bottom of the league. Most importantly, for a team starting a rebuild, they are showing progress.
An area where progress is vital and trumps even that of team play is from some of the young talent on the Lakers roster that figure to stick around after this season. The player that has shined the most to close out the season is rookie Jordan Clarkson who is starting to look like the steal of the draft.
Clarkson was inserted into the starting line-up on January 23rd and has shown steady improvement to date. Clarkson has made such big strides that he currently leads the Lakers in scoring and 2nd in both minutes and assists in the month of March.
Competitive games that end in losses are what’s best
While losing is never fun, especially for the players, the Lakers are in a position where it’s the best for the future of the franchise and if they are going to lose they might as well play hard and make it close which is what the Lakers have done.
In addition, watching the little young talent the Lakers do have grow as NBA players is another promising sign for the future and will make the losses bearable to the fan base. That is where the progression of Clarkson has figured into this equation.
The Lakers should be looking to do more of the same to close out the remaining 16 games of the season:
More Clarkson. More competitive games. More losses.
In this type of a topsy-turvy season for the Lakers, that is the “winning” combination.