Led by a strong showing early from LeBron James and Brandon Ingram playing the role of closer late, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings for their first preseason victory.
Despite the win, Lakers head coach Luke Walton was visibly frustrated with his team. Walton’s postgame press conferences typically begin with a question being posed. However, the third-year coach began his session Thursday night with unsolicited criticism.
“We’ve got to get better,” Walton began. “Three things we talk about before games: screening, we talk about not turning the ball over and not fouling.
“I don’t have official stat sheets, because we didn’t have them all night, so maybe I’m wrong, and I’ll watch the video. But we were not good at any of those tonight.
Statistics bear out Walton’s remarks, as the Lakers committed 18 turnovers and 25 fouls. That resulted in 32 points for the Kings off of turnovers, and 28 free throws (20 makes).
“We have to get a lot better in this next week or however long we’ve got left until the start of the season,” Walton said to end his opening statement.
He did give the Lakers credit for playing well in spurts. The allowed Sacramento to score 39 points in the first quarter, but were held to a more acceptable 27 points in the second, 30 in the third, and 27 in the final 12 minutes.
“Our defense is good when we’re doing the things well, that we talk about doing. We’re just not doing it long enough,” Walton said. “So communication, doing our work early, getting over in our shell defense, all the things that make you a good defensive team, when we do those, we’re a good defensive team.”
And even though Ingram turned in a monster game as the starting point guard — 31 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals — and had key defensive plays down the stretch of the fourth quarter, Walton called for more overall focus from his young forward.
“He was good when he was closing the game, but we need him to be engaged defensively like that the whole time,” Walton said. “I thought at the end he got three deflections in a row using his length. I mean, he can do that all the time. Being disruptive like that.”
The Lakers next play Saturday against the Clippers, and face the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday and Friday. They will then have five days before beginning the season on the road with a matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.
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