The Los Angeles Lakers were pushed around, punked and bullied all over the court by the Oklahoma City Thunder in their previous two blowout losses. But when things got physical Sunday, Luke Walton liked the response from his young team.
Rather than wilt against a Thunder team that is much more experienced than the Lakers and has been far better for most of this season, Los Angeles answered every push from the playoff contenders with one of their own.
They got big stops, grabbed key rebounds and hit big shots every time they needed them. After the win, Walton told reporters that he was thrilled with the way his team didn’t back down from the fight, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I was most proud of the way we engaged ourselves in the fight this time. Again, we got off to a good start where we were competing back and forth. This time, we sustained it for much longer. There were times we gave in a little bit, we called timeouts, challenged them in those timeouts not to give into it. Don’t give into the fact it’s the end of a long trip and we’re playing against a really good team. Enjoy it, enjoy the challenge. And our guys, I thought, did a really good job of sticking together and really fighting that one out.”
And while the Lakers were completely outmuscled on the glass by OKC in previous games, L.A. only narrowly lost the rebounding battle 46-40, which was another aspect that impressed Walton:
“We got pushed around again today, which is fine, as long as we push back. That was the difference. We pushed back tonight. It’s a physical game, and it should be like that. That’s when it’s fun, when guys are going at each other. But the first two times it was just them pushing us. At least tonight our guys, we stood strong and fought back.”
The fight the Lakers showed allowed them to end their road trip 3-2 after a 1-2 start, displaying the type of progression the front office and coaching staff surely wanted to see from their inexperienced roster.
If the Lakers can keep executing and fighting like they did against the Thunder for the rest of the season, they might be able to upset a few more playoff teams and impress some impending free agents along the way.
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