The Los Angeles Lakers suffered a disappointing loss on Thursday night, falling 128-125 to the New Orleans Pelicans. Despite tying a season high for made 3-pointers (17), and facing a Pelicans team playing their fifth game in six nights, Luke Walton’s squad faltered down the stretch, failing to score in the last three minutes.
Rookie point guard Lonzo Ball will undoubtedly come under fire as he shot just 1-for-12 from deep, including a number of open misses down the stretch, but Walton was far less happy with another facet of the game.
Following the loss, he pointed to the team’s lack of effort in defending the paint as the primary reason the game was lost, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“The final three minutes, I was fine with. We got good looks, we were competing on defense, it just went the wrong way. I know that’s what a lot of the fans will kind of look at and say, ‘That’s where the game was lost.’ The game wasn’t lost there, it was lost [because] we gave up 80 points in our paint. That’s insane. To a team that’s played three night straight nights. Who obviously was missing jump shots because their legs were tired, and we let them get 80 points in our paint. Twenty-something, I think, in fast-break points. Still too many turnovers for road mentality. That’s where the game was lost. I actually though our guys, second half and late in the game, were really competing and playing hard. We just didn’t make shots.”
Allowing 80 points in the paint is simply unacceptable, and it contributed to the Pelicans making up the advantage the Lakers had from deep. The Pelicans got layups all night, particularly Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday, who combined for 50 points while making just two shots from beyond the arc.
A couple of made shots down the stretch, particularly from Ball, could have gotten the Lakers the win, but an ability to protect the paint likely would have put the game out of reach before it ever got to that point.
For Walton, who has stressed defense all year, the failures on that end will undoubtedly be the thing he harps upon.
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