The Los Angeles Lakers came out of the All-Star break on a the right foot as they came from behind for a 111-106 victory over the Houston Rockets. After trailing by as many as 19 points midway through the third quarter, head coach Luke Walton’s team stepped things up on defense to spark their comeback.
The Lakers held the high-scoring Rockets to just 27 points over the final 19 minutes of the game, and a mere 16 points in the fourth quarter. They also held James Harden to just four points in the final period as he narrowly kept his 30-point streak alive before fouling out late in the game.
“I love that it looked like we got our defensive mojo, our defensive confidence back as that game went along,” Walton said following the win. “We had to get to different groupings and different matchups, but we kept scrapping and found a way to give ourselves a chance.”
The scrapping mentality spread to the entire team. Reggie Bullock and Josh Hart set the tone, but Kyle Kuzma was also locked in on that side of the ball, doing all of the little things to help the Lakers get a win. And it is defense that Kuzma believes is key for the Lakers to make a run to the playoffs.
“It has to be defense — that’s the biggest thing,” Kuzma noted. “For the majority of the season, we’ve been a top-10 defensive team. If we want to accomplish our goals and get into the playoffs and win it big, that’s where it has to start. I think that’s sustainable because it’s all effort.”
Kuzma is right in that the Lakers have shown flashes of their defensive potential. Lonzo Ball’s eventual return should help things, but that side of the ball is where the Lakers must focus if they don’t want their season to end in April.
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