Chris Paul drives to the basket on Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol during… (Harry How / Getty Images )
They failed to close out on perimeter shooters, defend in transition or figure out what to do about the Clippers' new backcourt during a 114-95 loss Monday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers say they want to be a defense-first team, which was not exactly a term being used to describe them after their exhibition opener.
Excuses abounded afterward.
Kobe Bryant said his team was just beginning to adapt to a new defense. Andrew Bynum said he needed to get in better condition. Coach Mike Brown said it was a lack of effort.
"This has nothing to do with our concepts," Brown said. "We had guys tonight not even contest shots, look at shooters and allow them to shoot what I call H-O-R-S-E shots, the shots you shoot in your backyard growing up when no defense is on you."
The Clippers made 13 of 28 three-point shots and were particularly effective from beyond the arc in the third quarter, when their 18 points on six three-pointers represented one more point than the Lakers scored in the quarter.
The Lakers also neglected to defend in transition, giving up 29 points off 21 turnovers. Bryant said the Clippers' game-changing third quarter, when they outscored the Lakers, 36-17, was largely a function of defensive breakdowns.
"In that stretch of the game we turned the ball over way too much and gave up a lot of easy points in the paint," Bryant said. "We pride ourselves on being a good defensive team. That's our staple, so we have to do a much better job."
Bryant, who scored 22 points mostly on the strength of 12 free throws, declared his wrist, which he appeared to hurt while taking a tumble during the game, and his knee OK.
But Bynum acknowledged being behind in his conditioning.
"After the first six minutes I was heavily winded," he said, "so in practice I'm going to get up and down the court."
The Lakers also appeared incapable of containing Clippers guards Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups, who repeatedly threw alley-oop passes to big men Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan for thunderous dunks.
Bryant said the Lakers were still adjusting to the new defensive schemes being installed by their first-year coach.
"It just takes getting used to," Bryant said. "When you're used to doing things one way, you just have to do repetition and get your muscle memory down so you don't have to think about it; it just kind of becomes habit."
Brown called his team's defensive effort "a step backward" from what it had shown in practice. The Lakers will get a chance to head in a preferred direction when they play the Clippers again Wednesday in their final exhibition game before opening the season Sunday afternoon at Staples Center against the Chicago Bulls.
"We have to play with a sense of urgency because if we float, especially against good teams, we're going to get our behind kicked," Brown said. "We have to be a physical defensive team and play with a sense of urgency on every possession."