An all-too-familiar patter brought about more frustration yet netted another win, even with the Los Angeles Lakers having trouble finding bottom from the free throw line. Their nail-biter against the Boston Celtics was a sixth consecutive win at home and third in a row overall.
The Lakers won despite making just 21 of their 36 free throws (58.3 percent). Included in that were only seven makes on 17 attempts in the fourth quarter. Josh Hart and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each missed two free throws within the final 20 seconds that likely would’ve iced the game.
This came two games removed from the Lakers setting an NBA record for worst free-throw percentage (14.3 percent) in a 99-96 win against the Indiana Pacers.
“Frustrated that we didn’t make free throws,” Luke Walton said after his team handed the Celtics their fourth consecutive loss.
“I know we haven’t made them, but we have guys that I trust at the line that need to step up and knock those down. Obviously, we love the win. Our guys did a hell of a job scrapping, fighting and really playing with a lot of energy against a hungry, talented Boston team.”
“Got a lot of really nice individual performances throughout the game from everyone that played, really. Fought on the glass, did a lot of things really well. But our execution down the stretch, it’s not OK.
“Guys have to knock down free throws. Down the stretch, under a minute to go and you have a lead at home, and I have confidence those guys that missed them tonight, will make them in the future, but we hopefully can remedy that sooner rather than later.”
If there was a savior for the Lakers, aside from Kyle Kuzma erupting for 17 points in the fourth quarter, it was their defense. What was a calling card early in the season, only to slip throughout December and into January, has again come around.
“The message right now is defense. Everything is defense,” Walton said. “Because we’re shooting this from the free throw line, because we’re not doing this or that or whatever it is, we’re still able to win games because we’re defending and playing with a ton of effort and energy.”
Jordan Clarkson made all but one of his seven free throws on the night and had a simple solution for the team to solve their ongoing troubles. “Make ’em. That’s it,” he said. “Focus and make ’em.”
As for how he managed to shoot a high percentage, Clarkson held back some. “I was going to say something crazy. … I just go up there and focus on the rim. That’s all I see,” he said with a laugh.
Kuzma indicated the Lakers were informed they faced a practice session on Wednesday because of their poor free-throw shooting, but the team shortly after announced it was cancelled.