Coach Mike Brown tries to rally the Lakers during a timeout on Sunday night… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The emphasis Lakers Coach Mike Brown stressed on defense comes in many shapes and forms.
There are DVDs. Brown wowed the Lakers' front office with these during his job interview so much that he quickly became the favored candidate. He then distributed them to all his players before the lockout so they'd get a head-start on learning and executing his defensive concepts.
There are terms. The main one Brown reiterates involves "shrinking the floor," which entails closing off baseline drives. The other involves "showing," a code word for confronting a scorer immediately when he beats another defender.
There are roles. Everyone must move along the pass of the ball. They must help out from the weak side. They must box out when shots go up. They must go back on defense.
If it sounds like a lot to go over, well the Lakers might want to take a refresher course. After ranking among the league best in points allowed and field-goal percentage, the Lakers' defense has taken a wrong turn.
The Lakers' 102-96 loss Sunday to the Memphis Grizzlies marked the sixth time in nine games they allowed more than 100 points. They lost the rebounding battle, 42-38. They conceded 21 second-chance points. You get the idea.
"It's going to be hard to beat somebody like this," Brown said with a hint of resignation after scanning the box score.
The main culprit points to what happened on the other side of the ball. The Lakers entered their game against Memphis with renewed efficiency on offense ever since acquiring Ramon Sessions from Cleveland before the trade deadline. That resulted in the Lakers' offensive efficiency jumping from its regular-season averages in points (95.88, 102.4), field-goal percentage (45.7%, 48.5%) and assists (21.69, 24.2).
But it's also partly coincided with the Lakers' defensive dip in the past 10 games. During that stretch, the Lakers have faced declines compared with their regular-season averages in points allowed (93.41, 100.1), field-goal percentage (42.7%, 46.2%), rebounds (45.4, 44.2)
"We have to make sure we can't ignore what makes us a great team," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. "Playing defensively solid on that end of the floor. Offensively, whether we play better, more confident, more effective or not, we have to be consistent on the defensive end of the floor. But we haven't."
The reasons varied.
There's the usual suspects. Gasol couldn't stop LaMarcus Aldridge from scoring 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting in the Lakers' 103-96 win Friday over Portland, despite receiving plenty of help on double teams. Metta World Peace's renewed focus on defense hardly translated when Memphis forward Rudy Gay scored 18 points on eight-of-14 Sunday, including 13 in the first half.
There's the anonymous player-turned All-Star. Utah reserve guard Alec Burks scored 17 points in the Lakers' four-point loss last week to the Jazz, including three baskets in the last four minutes. Utah backup big man Enes Kanter also repeatedly drove around Bynum en route to 17 points.
There's also effort. Despite scoring an efficient 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting against Memphis, Bynum said, "I need to play better defense." His four rebounds marked the fourth consecutive game he remained limited to single digits on the glass. Bynum routinely slogged back on defense. He often failed to close off opponents from scoring in the paint.
Said Brown: "That's something [Bynum] has to pick up in order for us to have success."
Re-watching those DVDs and putting in more effort might be a good start.