The defending champs are facing their first real adversity of the season.
The Los Angeles Lakers have dropped three of four since Anthony Davis was ruled out for a month with a strained calf and Achilles tendinosis. The offense has been sluggish for stretches without Davis, and the Lakers have shot 29.5% from 3-point range over the past four games. In 10 games in February, the Lakers are shooting 29.2% from deep.
Additionally, Dennis Schroder has missed the last two games due to league health and safety protocols. Schroder has tested negative for COVID-19 but will miss a week to quarantine after exposure, according to reports.
With two starters sidelined, LeBron James is shouldering the bulk of the scoring load. And while James continues to post his usual numbers, his 3-point shooting has taken a precipitous drop as he logs heavy minutes.
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James is shooting 25% from long range in February, including 3-for-23 (13%) in the last four games, after a 41.3% clip in December and January. Still, James isn’t ready to sound the alarm just yet.
“We’re going to continue to work on our habits and be great for each other,” James said after Saturday’s loss to the Miami Heat. “We all put in the work, so it’s not that. The law of averages will even itself out. We had lapses last season, and we had them during the playoffs. We know they’ll even out over the course of the year.”
In need of a bounce-back, the Lakers face one of the best defenses for it Monday: the Washington Wizards, who are 25th in defensive rating and give up the second-most points in the league.
Here are four more key things to watch Monday around the NBA:
The Utah Jazz remain red-hot despite a close loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday that snapped a nine-game win streak. The Jazz have still won 20 of their last 22 games — 18 by double digits — and sit atop the Western Conference at 24-6. They host the Charlotte Hornets, who are riding high after Terry Rozier’s game-winner beat the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. Rozier is averaging 36 points per game over the last four.
Cousins is expected to be in the Houston Rockets lineup against the Chicago Bulls, even though his time with the team could be coming to an end. Houston is reportedly looking to part ways with the veteran center to give more playing time to up-an-coming big man Christian Wood. However, Wood is still out with a sprained right ankle, so Cousins will likely remain with the Rockets for the time being to start at center.
The Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers had two of the best offseasons, and it has shown in the first half of the year. The Suns, fourth in the Western Conference at 19-10, host the Blazers, who are one game back at 18-11. Both have established themselves as strong playoff contenders behind the Jazz, Lakers and Clippers, and this early-season showdown could help determine whether the Suns or Blazers have a better chance of claiming a top four seed in the West.
Green’s late blow-up cost the Warriors in their loss to the Hornets on Saturday. Golden State coach Steve Kerr said Green “crossed the line” with his behavior and knows it. Teammates had Green’s back after they said he apologized, but the league may not be as understanding. Given Green’s history of on-court outbursts, it’s fair to wonder if the NBA could fine him. Green has been fined over $800,000 during his nine-year career, according to Spotrac.
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