Lakers’ defensive issues remain unresolved in loss to Miami

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) shoots for three points over Los Angeles Lakers forward Wesley Johnson (11) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. The Heat won 109-102. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) shoots for three points over Los Angeles Lakers forward Wesley Johnson (11) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. The Heat won 109-102. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

MIAMI — Six seconds ticked off the clock, and that was all the time that was needed to show a few disturbing trends.

The Lakers’ lack of foot speed. The Lakers’ lack of talent. The Lakers’ hopelessness. Their opponent’s dominating power.

LeBron James grabbed a rebound off Ryan Kelly’s missed 3-point attempt. No one on the Lakers showed enough floor spacing and quickness to become settled on defense. James then outran all of them and threw down a one-handed dunk that shook the Lakers’ core.

Fast forward one quarter, later, and the Lakers suddenly cut the Heat’s 16-point lead into a four-point deficit with less than three minutes remaining. Then, Lakers guard Jodie Meeks provided the right amount of suffocating defense needed to stifle James, swarming him with very little space to operate along the perimeter.

No matter. James still dropped a 25-foot three-point jumper that sucked the air out of the room and ultimately led to the Lakers’ 109-102 loss Thursday to the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena.

“I played pretty good defense, and he hit a tough shot,” Meeks said. “That is why he is LeBron. Really nothing you can do. Just play hard and hope he misses sometimes.”

Through Meeks’ suffocating perimeter defense and the Lakers’ resignation on his deadline fast-break dunk, the result still remained the same. James bulldozed his way toward 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting, and the Lakers (16-27) were left with another game where their defense couldn’t carry the day. With the Lakers dropping eight of their 11 games this month, the Lakers have conceded an average of 113 points.

“We’re familiar with the schemes and everybody is playing hard,” Meeks said. “But we have a lot of guys injured and we’re not used to playing with one another. We’re getting used to it now so we’re playing better. We need everybody on the court. It’s going to take a little bit of time.”

Unfortunately, the Lakers don’t have that luxury.

They sit in 13th place in the Western Conference. Bryant and Steve Nash will be reevaluated next week for their respective left knee and back injuries, but they’re unlikely to improve the team’s defensive significantly. Tough defenders, such as Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar, remain weeks away from returning from their respective right elbow and left hamstring injuries. Will all the Lakers’ fortunes suddenly change with Xavier Henry likely to play sometime next week after healing a bone bruise in his left knee? Meanwhile, the Lakers haven’t found an elite defender or a dependable rim protecter since losing two former NBA Defensive Players of the Year this offseason in Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace.

“We’re hustling and we don’t have great defensive individuals,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “So we have t cover for each other and communicate. We have to be better communicating and getting each other going and energizing each other.”

The Lakers hardly showed that against Miami, who bullied its way in the paint (52 points), on the glass (outrebounding the Lakers (48-35) and from three-point range (eight of 20). The Lakers have tried minimizing such issues by forcing mid-range jumpers. But Chris Bosh exposed that strategy by scoring 31 points on 15-22 shooting amid a flurry of them.

“I asked Bosh, I said, ‘Did you miss tonight?'” Lakers forward Nick Young recalled. “He said, ‘Man, I’m done having one of them nights.’ That’s one of them games every player wants.”

The Lakers are capable of having such offensive nights, too.

Gasol’s 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting capped off an effective month where he entered the game averaging 22 points on 53 percent shooting and 12.4 rebounds in the previous five games. Though Young’s 19-point performance on 8-of-20 clip entailed a 4 of 12 mark through three quarters, he had averaged 30 points in the previous two contests.

“Our offense we’ll find a way to score,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s not numbers. It’s about defense and being tougher and getting into people and controlling everything and getting back. I don’t look at the numbers. I just do it individually. Our problem is defense.”

So how do the Lakers fix it?

{We need to scramble and communicate and hold each other accountable,” Gasol said. “If we do execute the right way and communicate and know where we’re at, yeah we’ll give up some jumpers. But that’s the most we give up. Sometimes we give too many point points, too many easy ones and too many uncontested shots. That’s what we can’t afford. If it happens too often, we’re in trouble.”

There’s only problem: the Lakers are already at that position without any clear sign it will stop.


Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense can work, and the Heat are proving it

Lakers’ Nick Young learning a lot from Kobe Bryant

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at

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