While the Los Angeles Lakers were on a three-game winning streak and had won seven of their last nine games, their success had primarily come at home. Of the aforementioned victories, only one was on the road — in overtime against the Dallas Mavericks nearly two weeks ago.
Although they gutted out a win, the Lakers failed to make their free throws and get requisite stops on defense during the final minutes of the fourth quarter. With the Lakers embarking on a five-game road trip, head coach Luke Walton very clearly had a message in mind.
Following a close win over the Chicago Bulls, Walton explained the focal points he’d spent Friday conveying to the Lakers, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“The idea today was road mentality. That’s been the theme all day, and that means not turning the ball over and making free throws. Seventy-five percent, for us is good, but we hit them down the stretch which was big-time of our guys. And then defense. We were able to get some stops when it mattered most. That’s kind of been a theme we’ve been able to stick to since we started winning.”
When examined under a broad scope, it can be determined the Lakers took heed of Walton’s message. They responded to each of the Bulls’ runs, including the fourth quarter when Chicago took their first lead since holding a 3-2 edge in the first.
Within connecting on 21 of their 28 free throw attempts, the Lakers were 12-for-15 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter. It was a welcomed change from the worst free-throw shooting team in the NBA. Ingram’s free throws started a 13-2 run over the final 3:18 of the game.
Now on a season-high tying four-game winning streak, the Lakers next play on Sunday when they face the Toronto Raptors north of the border. From there, Los Angeles is due for stops in Orlando, Brooklyn and Oklahoma City.
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