The Los Angeles Lakers were without Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brandon Ingram. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to nine for the Indiana Pacers, and made just 2-of-14 attempts from the free throw line, good for the worst percentage in NBA history (14.3 percent).
Yet, the Lakers managed to snap a two-game losing streak. Moreover, the win was their first in nine games this season without Ball. “Our defense was awesome tonight,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said.
“That was the challenge all day long to the guys, was it doesn’t matter who’s out, how many guys are out, if we defend the way we’re capable of and compete on that end of the floor the way we are capable of, I think it just shows how hard our guys played on that end to overcome what’s got to be the worst of all-time from the free throw line. It was all defense.”
The Lakers once boasted a top-five defensive rating, but injuries and a tough stretch in December knocked them from that standing. They presently rank ninth, allowing an average of 104.6 points per 100 possessions.
On Friday night they held the Pacers to just 86 points. Indiana were 10-for-13 from the free throw line, but connected on just two of 25 attempts behind the arc. They shot 38.1 percent overall.
“Maybe they’ve got to get some work in, too,” Jordan Clarkson quipped. “Shoot, we got to get some work in, too.”
Clarkson led the Lakers with a season-high 33 points off the bench. He was responsible for the team’s only makes from the free throw line. “For real? Dang, that’s crazy,” Clarkson said when informed of the Lakers setting the record for worst free-throw shooting percentage in a single game.
While L.A. benefitted from the Pacers struggling from the field, in some part due to defensive intensity and pressure from the Lakers, Walton is hopeful Friday’s win will further reinforce his call for focus on defense.
“I hope the lessons learned tonight all are about how important defense is,” he said. “And how important it is to talk on that end, to cover for each other. I hope when they go home and watch the tape, that we take with us that defense is truly what is most important.”
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