The Los Angeles Lakers reached the official midway point of their season on Thursday, punctuating the night with an upset win over the San Antonio Spurs. It extended the Lakers’ modest winning streak to a season-best three games.
They’re still just 14-27, but are steadily distancing themselves from a nine-game losing skid. “I think it’s been a good season so far,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said before concluding the homestand.
“Coming into it, we had some goals we wanted to reach as a team. One of which was we play hard and compete every night, one was we want to get much better on the defensive end, and one was we want to play really fast.”
“We’ve done most of those things all season. Now, we haven’t gotten the final results that we always want, but for being a somewhat new group and young team, I’m happy with the way our guys have played and more importantly, with the way that they’ve worked and the habits that they continue to build.”
After a slide to the bottom during a difficult stretch in December, the Lakers currently boast a defense that ranks 11th in terms of efficiency. They once had a top-five defensive rating. That the team has fared well for much of the year on that end of the court is the biggest revelation for Walton.
“The biggest surprise to me was defensively, the jump we were able to make,” he said. “I know we had some slippage, we had our injuries, but that’s not easy. That’s been a great surprise.”
Whether Walton, or Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson or general manager Rob Pelinka, the organization has maintained the season will not be evaluated solely on their won-loss record.
“The end-game results, to me, always take care of themselves as teams get better and do the important things better. So I’m not going to put whether or not the second half of the season is successful or not depending on the amount of wins that we get,” Walton said.
“It’s going to be about is our team moving in the right direction? Are they playing together? Are they playing unselfish? Are they playing hard? Are they competing on the defensive end? Are they understanding the NBA game better? Hopefully, if we’re doing all those things, then we’ll win more games.”