D'Antoni says Lakers need better starts, tighter defense

Sat Jan 5, 2013 9:40pm EST
 

(Reuters) - Faster starts and a much improved defense are sorely needed by the Los Angeles Lakers if the 16-time NBA champions are to resurrect a bitterly disappointing campaign, according to their head coach Mike D'Antoni.

Lakers fans had lofty expectations for 2012-13 after Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were joined by fellow All-Stars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash during the off-season but the once mighty franchise has failed to gel, slipping to a 15-17 record.

An ageing line-up has not been helped by a spate of injuries and three different head coaches, though the return of veteran point guard Nash from a leg fracture for the last six games certainly gave the team a much needed lift.

"We just have to get better starts," D'Antoni told reporters after Lakers team practice at their El Segundo training facility on Saturday. "Whatever we're doing isn't working right now.

"And defensively, we need to work harder. We lose our energy on defense sometimes because the offense sputters."

The Lakers lost a tense battle with their city rival Clippers 107-102 on Friday after clawing back from a 19-point deficit early in the fourth quarter at the Staples Center.

FALLING SHORT

In their previous game they also fell short, going down 103-99 on their home court against the struggling Philadelphia 76ers on New Year's Day after trailing by 11 points in the first quarter.

"We competed," D'Antoni said of his team's spirited revival against the Clippers when Bryant finished with a game-high 38 points. "We came back and we had a shot at the end to win.   Continued...

 
Los Angeles Lakers' Steve Nash (L), head coach Mike D'Antoni (C) and Kobe Bryant react after losing possession of the ball in the final minute of the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers in their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles January 4, 2013. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok