With their playoff lives at stake, Darvin Ham challenges the Lakers’ effort and urgency

Lakers forward Rui Hachimura, left, recovers a loose ball next to Minnesota Timberwolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker during the second half of the Lakers’ 110-102 loss Friday night at Crypto.com Arena. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

Maybe it was how it happened that set off Darwin Hamthe Lakers head coach clearly disappointed not only in his team’s loss but in the overall approach.

“Energy, effort and urgency — we’ve been writing those words on our board,” Ham said. “We should know what the circumstances are. It’s no reason, no excuse for us to come out and not have that against a team that we’re competing for to try to get a [playoff] spot. You saw the way they played. They were up in our chest all night. There were times, until the very end when we woke up and got aggressive, it just seemed like we were on our heels.

“And we can’t have that, especially when you’re sitting in the position we’re sitting in and trying to get to where we’re trying to get to.”

It was clear to Ham on Friday after his team’s 110-102 loss to the Timberwolves that this way wasn’t going to get the Lakers anywhere.

It was a harsh critique considering no one could reasonably expect the Lakers to win every game remaining on their schedule no matter the urgency. Inside the locker room, there was some pushback to the notion that this loss was about effort or urgency (energy, on the other hand, was undoubtedly an issue at times with the Lakers coming off a three-game trip).

Instead, some players pointed to Minnesota’s size and better shooting night as reasons why the Lakers couldn’t get a win — the team getting smothered in the second and third quarters when they scored only 42 combined points.

“You know, I thought we allowed them to disrupt us a little bit. We gotta anticipate that they’re going to come out like that. We have to meet aggression with aggression,” Ham said. “I thought there were too many times we got caught up playing east-west instead of just putting our heads down and attacking the basket, getting to the paint, living at the free-throw line. When teams are aggressive like that, you gotta play downhill.”

The Lakers certainly missed D’Angelo Russellwho would’ve helped release a lot of Minnesota’s pressure with his shot-making and ballhandling.

Russell has missed four consecutive games after stepping on Donte DiVincenzo’s foot during an inbounds pass early in the Lakers’ win against Golden State to start the post All-Star push.

With Russell’s free agency ahead of him this summer, the Lakers need to get a real look at the former No. 2 picks to see whether he can be a reliable partner with Anthony Davis and LeBron James — durability being a necessity alongside that pair.

The Lakers badly missed Russell’s shot-making and playmaking Friday, Dennis Schroder left as the primary ballhandler, playing after injuring an ankle while being hounded by Jaden McDaniels — one of the best defenders in the league.

Schroder struggled making only three of 13 shots from the field, although he had 12 assists without a turnover.

It was the kind of performance that summed up the game Friday, some bad and not enough good in a loss that cost the Lakers a chance to make a move against a team they’re chasing.

“I feel like we played hard,” Davis said. “We had some stretches at both ends of the floor throughout the course of the game, especially in the third quarter. Whether it was a turnover, bad shot, miscues on defense. But just went out and competed. … Just had them stretches where it’s the tale of the game. At this point, we gotta be locked in for the full 48. We can’t have those miscues, which essentially cost us the game tonight.”

Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, tries to drive past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, tries to drive past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels during the first half Friday. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

The Lakers (30-34) remain one game behind Utah and New Orleans (31-33) for the final two postseason berths, possibly further frustrating Ham.

“I’ve been around this thing 26 years,” he said. “Multiple championships. Multiple trips as a player and a coach to the postseason. If someone has to tell you that you have to be locked in. … We do basketball for a living. Someone shouldn’t have to tell you to be locked in. We do basketball. We get paid millions of dollars. We do basketball for a living, which only takes, whether it’s a practice, a shootaround, a game, anywhere from an hour — sometimes 45 minutes — to 2½, 3 hours. And sports. We’re not digging ditches all day. We’re not building homes. We’re not doing construction, risking our lives. We’re doing basketball for a living. And we’re playing for one of the most recognizable, historic franchises on the face of the earth — the most.

“If that doesn’t motivate you to go out and try to be the best version of yourself, I don’t know what will. And we talk about it. And we pour into our players and try to make them better individually and collectively. And so, we’re gonna keep preaching it. We’re gonna keep harping on it until there’s no time left and there’s just no chance of us doing it. But until then, we’re putting our best foot forward every day. Trust me.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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