Throughout much of this season the Los Angeles Lakers have struggled out of the gate. Saturday night’s matchup with the Denver Nuggets was no exception, as the Lakers found themselves down by double-digits early on in the first quarter.
With Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Kuzma, and Julius Randle all coming off the bench, the Lakers’ second unit has oftentimes brought the team back into the game. Such was the case against the Nuggets, with the trio combining to score 40 points.
The Lakers at one point held a lead in the fourth quarter, but Denver closed the game out on a 15-0 run, and Los Angeles suffered a fourth consecutive loss.
While the second unit has been a strength for the Lakers, Brandon Ingram said the team’s starters must improve and do their part, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“We’ve just got to get better on the defensive end. I think the second group did a really good job on the defensive end, sparking it. I think the first group has to do a better job of starting it. Starting with me, and also other guys on the floor.”
Ingram put together another strong performance, finishing with 20 points. It was his fifth game this season with at least 20 points and the first time in Ingram’s career he’s scored at least 20 points in back-to-back games. He was coming off a career-high 32 points.
Brook Lopez also did his part, scoring 15 points to snap a four-game drought in which he was kept to single-digits. But Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Larry Nance Jr. combined for just 16 points.
Two of the Lakers’ top three scorers — Kuzma and Clarkson — come off the bench. Although there should be an asterisk next to that as Kuzma has spent half of this season in the starting lineup while Nance was injured. Nonetheless, the Lakers’ starters have been extremely inconsistent.
The question at this point is whether head coach Luke Walton feels the need to make a change to the lineup. The obvious choice would be re-inserting Kuzma in place of Nance as the rookie thrived as a starter, but Walton values the intangibles and defense Nance brings.
Regardless, the Lakers starters have to begin getting the team off to better starts. Whether it comes from the current lineup or a change made by the coaching staff, the first unit has to bring it for this team.
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