LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers‘ season found a new low on Sunday, with a 123-95 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans being met by a chorus of boos from the Crypto.com Arena crowd throughout much of the night.
Russell Westbrook, the L.A. native whom the franchise completely overhauled its roster to acquire in the offseason, was asked if that type of reception from Lakers fans would be something he takes home with him, after his team lost for the ninth time in its past 12 games.
“Nah,” he said. “Take it home? For what? S—. Take it home? I got three beautiful kids at my house. Why would I take it home? If they boo, they can take their ass home. I ain’t worried about that. It doesn’t bother me none. …
“I can only answer if I take them home: No. But as for our team, I don’t think it’s something we got to deal with. And kind of move forward.”
Right now, the 27-33 Lakers are tumbling backward, with the loss to the No. 11 Pelicans shaving their lead on even having a spot in the play-in tournament down to just 2½ games with 22 games left to play.
And the path only gets more treacherous from here. L.A. plays three teams above it in the standings this week — the Dallas Mavericks, LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors — and then has a road-heavy schedule for the rest of March.
“We got a tough stretch with Dallas, Clippers again Thursday, then Golden State on Saturday,” LeBron James said. “And we still got 10 road games this month, or March, so it don’t get easier for us.”
The Pelicans loss was particularly discouraging, with Westbrook and James coughing up seven turnovers apiece on a night that the Lakers had 23 as a team, leading to 25 points for New Orleans.
The Lakers were outscored 44-25 in the third quarter — when the boos first started to be heard from the stands — and trailed by as many as 32 at one point.
“We’re not shooting the ball well from the perimeter, and the paint’s clogged, and we’re trying to force inside — with the pass, with the bounce — and it’s leading to a lot of turnovers,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said after his team shot 7-for-34 from 3 (20.6%). “And we’re not moving that well defensively. So, we weren’t very good on either end tonight.”
While Westbrook again mentioned the team’s championship goal — a concept that seems as remote as Anthony Davis‘ assertion from earlier in the season that L.A. was primed to run off a 10- or 12-game winning streak at any moment — James offered a far more meager benchmark to strive for.
“It all starts with a win. That’s what it starts with,” he said when asked how L.A. can begin to turn things around. “Try to get off of this slide and get a win, and learn from that win with things you did well, things that you didn’t do so well. So it always starts with that and how you can try to get into a game-by-game situation.”
When asked how to move forward from the loss, Vogel said the Lakers should simply “flush it” and turn the page, but Westbrook pointed to a discouraging trend that doesn’t seem so simple to shake.
“Teams are coming in, playing harder, and I believe that’s kind of their scouting report: Just play harder than them and see what happens,” Westbrook said. “And it’s working. Until we determine and have the determination that we’re not going to allow it, especially on our home floor, it will continue to happen to us.”
Dwight Howard, who got his second straight start at center with Davis still sidelined with a foot injury, offered an optimistic take, while acknowledging the team is teetering on the edge right now.
“It’s real easy to give up, throw in the towel and say negative things,” Howard said. “So, really at a loss for words. But we got to stay positive. We can’t sulk in defeat, and we can’t quit on each other. I know it’s been a very rough season, but nah, I think that’d be bad.”