Before embarking on the Grammy road trip, the Los Angeles Lakers had just finished up a tough stretch of basketball. The team was 2-8 over their previous 10 games, leaving Staples Center for five tough road games just before the All-Star break.
The Lakers were coming off of perhaps their worst stretch of basketball this season, as the team wasn’t demonstrating that same explosiveness and aggressiveness that coincided with their early success. Alas, the Lakers then lost three of their next four games, with an outlier blowout victory against the disastrous New York Knicks.
It was at this moment that Walton decided to take his next step in the coaching process, by demanding more of his team. Forward Julius Randle alluded to how Walton called out the roster, requiring the young team to take a second for reflection before their matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks, via Bill Oram of the O.C. Register:
“He thought we were crap,” Julius Randle said. “He thought … for whatever reason our focus wasn’t there. … So we really had to look ourselves in the mirror when we went back to the room, lock in and come up here prepared.”
Walton’s tactic seemed to have worked, with the Lakers coming out with a barrage of open shots and defensive stops early on against the Bucks. The entire team shot 18-for-22 in the first quarter, with a season high 47 points.
Randle himself didn’t see as much action this road trip as expected, as he was dealing with a case of pneumonia. The power forward only logged six minutes of action against the Washington Wizards and did not suit up against the Boston Celtics. However, he understood that Walton’s statement wasn’t deemed recent, but rather a reflection of the whole season.
The 22-year-old was a catalyst down the stretch for the Lakers, just when they were on the brink of destruction in the fourth quarter against the Bucks. The Bucks brought the lead down to five points, as the Lakers had gone cold from the field.
However, Randle broke the cold streak with a two-handed slam on a feed from Larry Nance Jr. A few possessions later, Randle took Giannis Antetokounmpo one-on-one, with a driving hook to his left to seal the victory.
Walton was able to break through to his team on the final game of the trip, as he continues to figure out a system and routine to put in place moving forward. However, Lakers fans should be pleased with how the team responded, as they attempt to show rapid signs of growth over the final 26 games of the season.