3 reasons the Lakers are struggling besides Anthony Davis’ injury

Los Angeles Lakers, The Whiteboard

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The Lakers were dominated by the Utah Jazz in a 25-point loss Wednesday night, stretching their losing streak to four straight games and making them losers of five of their last six. This stretch obviously coincides neatly with the absence of Anthony Davis who left the team’s loss to the Nuggets on Feb. 14 with a lower-leg injury and hasn’t played since.

Davis is expected to be out at least a month and an extended losing streak could change the playoff picture for the Lakers and deprive them of much-needed rhythm as they prepare to defend their 2020 title in the postseason. However, there are several variables besides Davis’ absence that have broken against the Lakers over this stretch and they imply that things aren’t nearly as dark as they appear right now.

The Lakers are missing Dennis Schroder as well

Davis isn’t the only Laker who has been out — he’s played in just two of the last six games because of COVID contact-tracing quarantine. The Lakers miss him on both ends of the floor and his absence has forced Wesley Matthews, Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso into slightly larger roles and more minutes than they would have otherwise played. That threesome has shot 33.3 percent from the floor and 23.4 percent on 3-pointers with a combined assist-to-turnover ratio just slightly above 2.0. Schroder is supposed to run Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers which should slot the rest of these backcourt players into their usual roles and allow everyone to play a little better.

Open shots aren’t falling for the Lakers

Over their past six games, the Lakers have hit just 57-of-191 (29.8 percent) on open and wide-open 3-pointers. These are shots where the closest defender is at least four feet away from the shooter and thus the shots that are least likely to be influenced by the defense. They are the truest representation of team or player’s shooting ability but they are still subject to random hot and cold streaks.

Before this six-game streak, the Lakers had been hitting 37.3 percent of these shots, much closer to the league average. LeBron James, in particular, has been struggling — he’s made just 15.2 percent of his 33 open and wide-open 3-point attempts over the last six games after hitting 39.6 percent to start the season. Separate from the mechanisms that create them and the other scoring opportunities that surround them, at some point the Lakers’ shooters will progress towards the mean and things will look much, much better.

Open shots are falling for the Lakers’ opponents

Just as the Lakers’ shooters are suffering from a sustained cold streak on shots that defenders have the least ability to impact, their opponents are getting the opposite result. Over this six-game streak, Lakers’ opponents have hit 81-of-186 (43.5 percent) of their open and wide-open 3s. Coming into this streak, their opponents had been hitting 34.1 percent of their open and wide-open 3s. That was one of the better marks in the league and a number that was likely to regress at some point and the bubble has just burst.

It’s worth pointing out that even without Davis on the floor, the Lakers have created more open and wide-open 3-pointers than they have allowed over the past six games. But they’ve scored 72 fewer points than their opponents on those shots, an average of 12 points per game.

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