The Los Angeles Lakers have found plenty of creative ways to shoot themselves in the proverbial foot this season, and that didn’t change in their 116-114 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday night.
Head coach Luke Walton said the usual suspects were to blame, even if the box score didn’t immediately make that clear. “Free throws, turnovers,” Walton said of what ailed the Lakers.
“Tonight we did a very good job of taking care of the ball. That’s with our total numbers, (but) we had three or four on transition opportunities that I keep telling the guys, ‘We don’t need to make home run passes. Make the simple, simple pass.'”
The Lakers are the worst free-throw shooting team in the league, only converting a 69.9 percent of their attempts. Against the Warriors they missed 13 free throws, and in a two-point loss it’s hard not to see that as a deciding factor.
And while Los Angeles actually won the turnover battle, 12 against the Warriors’ 14, they’ve struggled there this season, turning the ball over on 16 percent of their possessions, the fifth-worst rate in the NBA.
Still, Walton does see signs of progress on that front.
“The saying is the simple will lead to the spectacular. Like, the dunk Larry Nance had tonight, instead of trying to throw left-handed alley-oop passes at the top of the glass, KCP just came to a jump stop and made a simple bounce pass,” Walton said.
“Because of that, Larry was able to gather himself and have a big-time dunk. We’ve got to quit trying to make home-run plays on transition. It’s killing our opportunities that we work so hard for on the defensive end.”
Even after giving up 116 points to the Warriors, the Lakers are still allowing just 103.2 points per 100 possessions, good for eighth-best defensive efficiency in the entire NBA.
If they can start to cut down on their giveaways and allow less transition opportunities, not only will their offense improve, but their defense might be able to tick back upwards as well, which is why Walton continues to harp on that facet of the game.
Young teams are turnover-prone, so the Lakers will have their good days and their bad days with ball security. As long as they’re showing progress and continuing to hang in with teams like the Warriors, then it’ll continue to be clear they’re at least on the right track.
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