The hope, of course, would be that the time back in Los Angeles would do the Lakers some good. Their coach implored his team that the excuses of the past month — so many of which were valid — needed to end. That the team had to play “consciously competitive consistently” — an alliterative mouthful that Darvin Ham later edited down.
“Flat-out playing hard,” he said pregame Wednesday.
With the Lakers starting their January at home, where they’ll be basically for the entire month, effort wasn’t an issue.
They got so little of that right.
The Lakers turned the ball over 22 times and made only four-of-30 three-point shots, losing 110-96 to Miami to drop their ninth game in their last 12.
It’s the first time this team has been below .500 since Nov. 10.
This is the first team this season to shoot worse than 15% from three and turn it over 20 or more times.
That Anthony Davis continued his tear — Wednesday scoring 29 points to go with 17 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and three steals — mattered little.
The Lakers were largely a sloppy mess in their first of 11 games in Los Angeles between now and Jan. 27, coughing up the ball crippling amounts while letting the shorthanded Heat play in front on a night when they weren’t close to their sharpest.
The Lakers, despite their carelessness, were within two early in the fourth quarter before getting completely bulldozed through the final horn.
Throughout the game, the Lakers’ body language reflected a team in the middle of a horrible slump. LeBron James simply looking to the bench and shrugging after a wasted possession against the Heat’s zone ended with a forced three that he missed.
James declined to speak postgame.
“The unforced turnovers are the ones that really hurt you,” Ham said afterward. “… And it’s human nature for you to get down and disappointed when those unfortunate things happen. But at the end of the day, it’s NBA basketball. It’s extremely hard to win in this league. You have to really pour all of yourself into each and every possession or as many as possible. And we’ll figure it out. There’s a lot of time left — but the time is precious. We have to get to it [and] figure it out.”
It was the kind of game, that again, should have the Lakers asking big questions about their road ahead, the NBA’s trade deadline now a little more than a month away.
Pregame, Ham said he and the team looked at itself in the mirror following a 3-8 close to December and concluded “that there’s more than enough in the room.”
And while the Lakers didn’t have everyone available — Rui Hachimura and D’Angelo Russell are day to day with their calf and tailbone injuries — they weren’t missing the kind of player their opponent, the Heat was.
Miami played without Jimmy Butler for their 19th time this season, instead getting at least seven points from each of the seven players they played Wednesday.
The Lakers, in another attempt to kickstart things, returned Austin Reaves to the starting lineup with Cam Reddish while Jared Vanderbilt moved to the bench. (Hachimura started for the Lakers in New Orleans in Reddish’s place).
“I don’t think it’s a whole thing of who’s starting and who’s not. Everybody is capable of doing what we have to do to win basketball games on both ends of the floor,” Davis said. “So the whole lineup thing is an excuse. We have high-level IQ guys who know what they should be doing individually and what we should be doing as a team on both ends of the floor.”
Reaves finished with a season-high 24 on just 12 shot attempts. James scored a season-low 12 points on 18 shot attempts.
“If you just look at the stat sheet, we got to shoot the ball better from three,” Reaves said. “Shooting 13% tonight, you not going to win those games when you do that. … Basketball today, you got to shoot the three well. Obviously turnovers have been an issue. But once we start I think making threes at a good percentage then everything will open up, especially for LeBron and AD. So, we have to do our part in helping them out because they draw so much attention.”
The move comes, again, as the Lakers have thirsted for some kind of consistency, a quest that’s been undone by injuries and an ongoing search for five Lakers who can consistently play with positive results.
That journey included five first-half minutes for rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino, who missed all four of his field-goal tries. Across the table, Miami rookie and former UCLA star Jaime Jaquez Jr. played a team-high 39 minutes and scored 16 — including a baseline jumper over James.
The Lakers play again Friday against Memphis, reeling as they’ve played their worst basketball of the season over the past three-plus weeks.
“If we play how we played tonight, then it’s going to go south for us really bad,” Davis said.