With the Los Angeles Lakers coming off an emotional loss and playing on the road in the second night of a back-to-back, head coach Luke Walton emphasized his team needing to create their own energy against the Phoenix Suns.
Instead, the Lakers were sluggish to start, falling behind by as many as nine points in the first quarter. With Brandon Ingram, LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma spending a portion of the second quarter on the bench, the Lakers saw their deficit swell to 14 points.
Phoenix scored 33 points in each of the first two quarters but the Lakers’ rally before halftime kept them in the game. The Suns took firm control and were ahead by 17 points entering the fourth.
The Lakers didn’t roll over but instead pulled to within one possession during the final minutes. Though the end result was a loss to a Suns team with the worst record in the NBA.
“We need to be better. We need to be a lot better,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said. “I’m happy with the fight we showed in the fourth quarter, but where we’re at in the season, that’s the desperation we need to start the game with.
“There’s 50-50 balls in that first half we weren’t getting to. One in the third quarter that bounced right in front of us that turned into a fastbreak for them. We started playing with [desperation], that shows me the group cares and they’re still invested. I believe in our group. I know it’s a back-to-back and guys are playing big minutes, but we’ve got to find a way to start and play entire ballgames with that same type of passion.
“It always starts with energy, and that was the big challenge to the group tonight. We had to create our own, we had to find it. I don’t think we did a good job of that until the fourth quarter.”
A lack of energy to start games has plagued the Lakers throughout the season. In some cases it can be attributed to the rash of injuries that depleted their depth at various points, but there also comes a time when coaching is blamed for such occurrences.
Walton was already perceived by many to be on shaky footing, and another loss that further dented the Lakers’ playoff hopes added to the speculation.
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