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Lakers shore up their defense with return of Dennis Schroder

The LA Times logo The LA Times 3/2/2021 Broderick Turner
a group of people walking in the sand: Lakers guard Dennis Schroder forces a turnover by Warriors guard Stephen Curry on Sunday night at Staples Center. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times) © (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times) Lakers guard Dennis Schroder forces a turnover by Warriors guard Stephen Curry on Sunday night at Staples Center. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The funk the Lakers found themselves in during a four-game losing streak only strengthened their resolve that film sessions could help lift them out of that tailspin.

If anything, they delved deeper into film work, searching for every little detail, reviewing every painful moment, looking for adjustments to correct the wrongs that had left the Lakers tumbling during porous defensive outings.

The long hours of being in the film room proved beneficial in helping the Lakers win the NBA championship last season.

So they knew it would work this time too.

It has, pushing the Lakers to a two-game winning streak because of a more purposeful defense that had been lacking.

“One thing about us, we do a good job of taking our film sessions and applying it to these game situations,” LeBron James said Sunday night after the Lakers throttled the Golden State Warriors 117-91 at Staples Center. “I think tonight we knew that we didn't play [the way] we're capable of defensively. We broke down a lot of film. We broke down some things, able to get on the floor and walk through some things, go over some things. And I think it's helped us the last two games.”

The Lakers lost Anthony Davis to a strained right calf during this rough stretch. Then they lost point guard Dennis Schroder to the NBA’s health and safety protocols during the losing streak.

Davis and Schroder are two of the Lakers’ top defenders; Schroder returned for the last two games.

“When you lose a mega-piece like AD is, it's going to take some time, both offensively and defensively, how we want to play and what's going to be our rhythm and how we get into our rhythm,” James said. “I think over the last two games, we've done a good job of trying to, you know, this is where we're going to have the ball. This is how we're going to be effective. This is where we need to run and how we're going to benefit from one another.

"And I also think guys knowing when they're going to play, they're knowing the rotations, things of that nature. Guys are just staying ready. Obviously, you always got to stay ready. But guys know their rotations and it’s worked out a lot for us.”

The Lakers will be challenged again when they host the streaking Phoenix Suns (22-11) on Tuesday night. Behind their All-Star backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, the Suns have won 14 of their last 17 games and are the surprising fourth-place team in the Western Conference.

“We’re just staying the course. We’ve believing in one another,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said on a videoconference Sunday night. “We’re going to have rough patches throughout the season. I remember going back to start the season saying there’s going to be some ugly nights from the turnaround. We hit that stretch just then with Anthony and then Dennis went down. We get into a little bit of an adjustment period. We keep grinding, sticking to our principles, make subtle tweaks and obviously getting Dennis back has really helped us, and it’s been great to see.”

In their four-game skid, the Lakers gave up 111.5 points per game.

In the recent wins over Portland and Golden State, the Lakers surrendered just 92 points per game.

They slowed down two of the best point guards in the NBA — Golden State's Stephen Curry, who scored just 16 points, and Portland’s Damian Lillard, who had just 11 of his 35 points in the second half after the Lakers shored up their defense in the final 24 minutes of that game.

“It's my job, like you said, to figure it out — on both sides of the floor,” James said. “And I think defensively, I've just been a little bit more active, you know, trying to be in the right position that it benefits our team, benefit myself. I've just been flying around. And it's helped out our team. And everyone's been flying around. They helped me out as well too. I'm definitely not OK with losing. So it's my job to figure it out what's going to be the best for our team. And we've done a good job of that the last couple of games.”

UP NEXT

VS PHOENIX    

When: 7 p.m., Tuesday

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet, TNT; Radio: 710, 1330

Update: All-Star guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul are among six Suns players averaging double figures in scoring. Booker leads the way (25.5 points per game), followed by Paul (16.4), who also leads the team in assists (9.0), and center Deandre Ayton (14.5), who also leads the team in rebounding (11.6). The Suns are fourth best in the league in assists (26.9) and fifth best in field-goal percentage (48.3). The Suns give up just 107.5 points per game, fourth best in the NBA.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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