Lakers News: Luke Walton Stresses Need For Improved Team Defense
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

One of the constant themes under Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton has been a commitment to defense. The team finished worst in the NBA in defensive rating during Walton’s first season, but made a sizable improvement to 12th at the conclusion of the 2017-18 campaign.

They were a top-10 defensive unit for stretches of that season, and slipped late because injuries piled up. While the roster features several new players, the Lakers are now experiencing something similar.

Despite a slow start to the season as they worked to develop continuity, the Lakers climbed to 10th in defensive rating, allowing 106.5 points per game, as of Dec. 26. That was one day after an impressive win against the Golden State Warriors but one that proved costly.

Rajon Rondo missed the next 14 games, and LeBron James was out 17. Since Dec. 27, the Lakers have the 18th-ranked defense and have allowed 110.3 points per game.

Heading into a matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, Walton called on his team to regain their footing and improve on that end of the court, via the Lakers’ Twitter account:

“For us, the most important thing is we start playing defense again. Our defense is going in the wrong direction right now, and that’s something we’ve been able to hang our hat on all season. We’re starting to get a little slippage.”

Within their defensive slide that began when James and Rondo were recovering from respective injuries, the Lakers have particularly struggled in the eight games Lonzo Ball has missed. During the stretch they’ve allowed 117.7 points per game, which ranks them 27th in the league.

Despite the roller coaster of a season, the Lakers still boast the 10th-best defense this season at 107.9 points allowed per game.

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