I’d be lying if I said I felt no disappointment or frustration after Tuesday’s loss to the Hornets. After controlling the game for the 1st half, the Lakers struggled mightily during the 3rd quarter to let the Hornets back in. The 4th quarter became a test of execution and timely plays, with Charlotte doing a bit more of the former and on the receiving end of a few more of the latter. A loss ensued and, as per the usual, when a loss like that occurs the torches were lit and the pitchforks were sharpened.
I get it. Anytime you lose a game you control so surely early on there’s going to be emotions and judgment. After the game Luke Walton spoke of the team getting away from what made them successful in the 1st half later in the game. Ball movement lessened, one-on-one play increased. Guys started to “do it all by themselves” on offense and the defense was less precise. He also noted that the Hornets are a very good team, which they are. Kemba Walker played like an all-star in the 2nd half, giving his team the spark and push they needed.
What did not get said by Walton was that some of his own coaching played a role in the loss. Down the stretch he went away from D’Angelo Russell in favor of Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, and Nick Young. Throughout the game Russell (along with Ingram) was the main ball moving player and the only guy making next level passes out of the P&R. Lou Williams might have had more assists, but I felt it was Russell who really showed a command of the offense via organization and want to get the team into the sets which triggered more ball and player movement.
I also thought Walton was late with his initial string of timeouts when the Hornets made their push in the 3rd quarter. Remember, in more than one recent game the Lakers have been playing well only to be done in by a bad quarter which gave back whatever ground they’d made while simultaneously giving the opponent the type of life and belief they used to seize momentum and win. When it looked like the Lakers were flat to start the 3rd quarter, I thought at the time he needed to huddle them up earlier to warn them of falling into the bad habits which plagued them recently.
That last point is somewhat small and the one before can be put into the context that all the Lakers’ wings were playing well, making the decision of whom to play not as straight forward. But when you lose, I think it’s important to reflect on how some of the decisions made played into that result and just because I am thrilled with the job Walton has done doesn’t make him exempt from some second guessing.
In saying all this, though, I was happy with the way the Lakers continued to battle even after giving up their lead. The Hornets, like the Kings game a week previously, could have easily seized the game and turned it completely in their favor to win going away. But the Lakers didn’t let that happen. They did find some stretches of defensive intensity, did hang tough on offense, and even led briefly with under 5 minutes left. The fact they didn’t win is disappointing, the fact they did not fold was very good to see.
On to the next one.