When the NBA scheduled a Lakers-Nets game on the Christmas tour, the idea was to pit LeBron, Davis and Westbrook against Durant, Harden and Irving for a star-studded game.
With a knee injury in Davis and league health protocols leaving Durant and Irving, half of those superstars walked off the field in Saturday’s 122-115 win.
Despite having two of those stars compared to just one in the Nets, the Lakers still suffered their fifth consecutive loss of the season, now with a 16-18 campaign and slipped to eighth in the Western Conference. And while Westbrook’s nine-time All-Star and MVP career recalls LeBron, who set his all-time record with 39 points, and Harden, who earned a hat-trick with 36 points, Westbrook’s performance fell short of what everyone expected.
Base hit only 4 of his 20 shots, and finished the game with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists with five fouls and three flips.
Westbrook left the Crypto Arena without speaking to the press, but LeBron spoke on his behalf and focused on what the veteran did well rather than highlighting his performance issues.
LeBron ignored 16 missed shots — including a go-to zero in the last period, which was eventually marred by a missed strike that ended with a dose of the hoop 26 seconds before the Lakers left a point behind the net — to qualify your companion game as a “low-performance night.”
Instead, LeBron praised Westbrook’s “amazing” decision that made him over two assists (11), and noted that five of the player’s rebounds came from the attacking table, meaning more scoring opportunities for the Lakers.
“He gave us extra possessions, he gave us a run of balls around the hoop, and I know he can’t afford to miss a shot either,” LeBron said. “But as hard as you are, if the guy plays hard, if the guy leaves everything on the field, I don’t have a problem with that.”
Lakers interim coach David Vizdale, replacing Frank Vogel while on protocols, said Westbrook’s expectations for himself this season in Los Angeles have led him to put pressure on his game.
“A big part of it is that he wants to do a lot,” Wiesdal said. “I mean, you can see it, and everyone sees it. He wants so much more. And I know it’s hard for him when he’s not working. And I know he cares like crazy.”
“I just want him to take that pressure off himself, keep attacking, and keep playing the way we know he can.”
There is value in the fact that Westbrook has played in all 34 of the Lakers’ games, while LeBron has lost 12 games and Davis has lost seven times and is likely to be out for at least another month as he recovers from a left knee sprain.
There was a huge disparity in Westbrook’s production compared to Saturday’s LeBron production. In the 37 minutes played by Westbrook, the Lakers were defeated by 23 points. Meanwhile, the Lakers had a 9-point lead in 40 minutes LeBron was on the field.
Wiesdal, who was the Miami Heat’s assistant coach when he helped LeBron lead the franchise to two NBA championships and four consecutive Finals, lamented that he was unable to capitalize on LeBron’s strong performance.
“I’m shocked he put in such a great effort,” said LeBron’s Wiesdel, who has now scored 30 or more points in four consecutive games and 10 of his last 14 with the Lakers. lost in defeat. Simply astounding, I’d hate to be lost in defeat.
The Lakers will now have Sunday and Monday off before hitting the road to face the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.
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