On a night when he surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most combined minutes played in the NBA’s regular season and playoffs, the 21-year veteran experienced a new low.
Never had his team lost this badly — the 76ers beating the Lakers 138-94, a 44-point defeat to establish a career worst.
“What needs to change in order for that not to happen again?” he said, repeating a reporter’s question. “Um, a lot.”
Asked for specifics, James declined to provide any.
“A lot,” he repeated.
Following a good win Saturday in Cleveland, the Lakers (10-8) seemed unraveled after getting blown out Monday, with James being uncharacteristically brief and Anthony Davis predicting an intense film session Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s game at Detroit and Thursday at Oklahoma City.
“There’s an opportunity for us to talk about it. And look at it. This is what we can’t have,” Davis said. “But you have to quickly flush it because we have another one on Wednesday, right? We can’t harp on it too long. It’s good to watch the film and see what we can get better at on both ends. But then you have to get ready for a game Wednesday and Thursday. So, you know, we’ve got to look at it, embrace it, own it — guys don’t take it personal for whatever’s said in the film — and then move on from it.”
But that can be easier said than done. Early last season, players struggled with that kind of accountability. Monday was the Lakers’ worst loss this season and the footage from it could challenge this team when it comes to addressing root problems.
“I know that in the course of the game, we’ve challenged each other. If someone’s not playing well or someone is, what’s the word, BS’ing, I guess, we’ve been calling people out,” Davis said. “... And I don’t think no one took it personal. But obviously in the course of the game, you’ve got to forget about it and just go play.
“And when you don’t have to go anywhere and you’re sitting there and watching film, it could be a little different. It’s also in front of the entire team, the coaching staff. So I don’t know. I don’t think we have guys who probably take it personal. But if they do, that’s probably another conversation.”
Coach Darvin Ham pointed to a lack of competitive spirit and to some head-hanging after Philadelphia opened the game hot from three-point range. Davis said the same.
“Their guys are making shots. And I think that’s when you have to stick together the most, especially on the road. And when they start making shots, you kinda know — like playing the Warriors, you know they’re going to make some tough shots — that’s what they do. But it kinda gets deflating,” Davis said. “And instead of coming together, I felt like tonight we kinda separated a little bit. Turned into one-pass shots, no-pass shots and defensively kinda some breakdowns where guys were open for threes and things like that. Rebounding. Fouling. Like it was uncharacteristic things for us.”
James said the Lakers executed their game plan and the 76ers just “killed them” from the three-point line. Philadelphia attempted 18 more threes than the Lakers and made 15 more. The 76ers also took 26 free throws to the Lakers’ 13, a surefire sign Philadelphia dictated how the game was played.
Davis acknowledged any judgments on the Lakers would be difficult to make — the team remains without key role players Jarred Vanderbilt, Gabe Vincent, Rui Hachimura and Cam Reddish. Short-handed, the team was outscored 40-14 in the fourth quarter Monday, 76ers such as Patrick Beverley reveling in the Lakers’ misfortunes.
As to how a team should react to a game like this, James didn’t have answers.
“I can only speak for myself,” he said.
“I don’t like it.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.