The Los Angeles Lakers fell apart in the second half of their 101-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors. After outscoring Toronto in the first half, the Lakers allowed the Raptors to 56-41 in the second half as they coughed away a winnable game.
Lonzo Ball had felt the Lakers made progress on defense in their last win over the Washington Wizards, but head coach Luke Walton didn’t see that improvement continue at the start of the second half against the Raptors as the Lakers starters were picked apart in transition.
As Walton told the media after the game, it’s why he gave the bench a shot to see if they could do better, via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
Luke Walton said he took the starters out early in the third Q, because they didn’t get back on transition defense, wanted to send a message
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) October 28, 2017
The Lakers have made progress on defense this season, giving up 102.1 points per 100 possessions to rank 13th in the NBA in defensive efficiency after their loss to the Raptors.
That’s a major jump from where the team was the last two seasons, in which they ranked last in the league in defensive efficiency.
As a young team, the Lakers aren’t going to be consistent defensively. They’re improving, but there are going to be moments where they play poorly. Those are teachable moments for young players, and Walton has evidently chosen to see if time on the pine is enough to motivate them into putting in the effort and focus necessary to maintain good transition defense.
It will be interesting to see if subbing out his entire starters as a unit continues to be Walton’s answer to those struggles, or if he’ll begin to isolate individual players for making mistakes as the season moves along.