Lakers believe they 'have the talent' to beat the Nuggets

The Lakers, in what could be their final off day of the season, watched film and tried to avoid the mistakes of the past while remaining hopeful for the future.

Easier said than done.

After leading by double digits in each of the first three games of their first-round Western Conference playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, the proof, to some degree, is there. The results, though, are not.

“Guys are irritated, frustrated, fed up, ready to make a change in terms of not continuously going down this road,” coach Darvin Ham said Friday. “And the overall theme was just our mindset. Belabor the problems, what’s gone on up to this point or shift our focus to how do we stay alive? And looking at the film, had a really good first quarter. How can we sustain that type of performance during the duration of the game?”

It has been an unanswerable question, the Lakers looking like Carl Lewis trying to win the Boston Marathon as they’ve faded in the second halves of each of these games.

“We have more than enough on our roster, in that locker room, to get the job done,” Ham said. “It’s just a matter, again, of being consistent, next-play mentality and sustaining. Moving on to the next possession. A lot of times, we have a bad possession or something doesn’t go our way, and it spills over.

“And so the biggest focus was how can we stay sharp, energetic, go hard for as long as possible and stay connected as a unit, whatever five guys are on the court. And try to sustain a high level of play, good, bad or indifferent.”

The Lakers still believe in their capability.

“We have the guys here, we have the talent, for sure. You know, I don’t think anybody can beat us, you know, just the talent-wise,” Rui Hachimura said. “…In my opinion, yes, we have the talent here, we have the guys that can beat any team in this league. And I talked to somebody about it too, but just this first round against Denver, it’s a conference final, it’s the exactly last thing.

“But even that, it’s the same story. We always up 20 and then we just come back and lose. So we just gotta put everything together and tomorrow we’ll see. We’re gonna play the same way and just gotta continue.”

Friday, Ham said he wouldn’t be making any changes to his starting lineup for Game 4, saying he wanted to try to give his guys a chance for redemption.

“You have to trust your players. And just believe in them,” Ham said. “And when they see that belief, then they tend to perform at a high level.”

Hachimura pointed to Denver’s experience together as a determining factor.

“It’s just we were playing so hard in the first quarter and we kind of got burnt out in the second quarter and started slowing down, like you guys saw in the game,” Hachimura said. “So, even the other two games, we had that stretch. The first quarter is good; second quarter, we’re up 20; and the third quarter is always the one. It’s not like we’re relaxed, but we kind of let up. So we got to kind of control it.”

It’s unclear if Jarred Vanderbilt or Christian Wood will be able to play Saturday in Game 4. Ham didn’t have an update on either.

Still, the team knows it has to be better on the glass, more consistent with its pace and less concerned with the 11 straight losses the Lakers have suffered to Denver.

“Well you know, winning hurts and you have to find a way to dig deep, find the energy to sustain that level of defense,” Ham said. “Obviously, it’s a game of runs. They’re going to make their runs, as we’ve seen. We make our runs. But whoever can continuously stack possessions in the positive matter are the ones who usually come out on top.

“They’re a championship team, and they’ve done a great job of that. When they hit their rhythm, they just continue to add to it. We’ve played good in this segment, and not so good and then good again in another segment. For us, it’s just remaining consistent and doing your work early.”

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