It may just be the 2018-19 NBA preseason, but the Los Angeles Lakers need every opportunity to see how they match up against the Golden State Warriors.
With eight new players and their first regular season matchup not until Christmas Day, the Lakers showed what they can eventually become in a 123-113 win in Las Vegas. Led by LeBron James’ first-half double-double, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma combined for 48 points as Lonzo Ball filled up the stat sheet in his debut.
For head coach Luke Walton, he singled out the team’s pace and how it will only improve with defense. “I was most impressed with the pace we played with in the first half,” Walton said.
“It showed what we’re capable of if we run as a team. We were taking the ball out, it didn’t matter who it was getting thrown ahead to, we were attacking the rim and putting pressure on their defense. That will continue to get better, especially as we continue to get better at defense. My favorite part of the first half was the pace we played with.”
As championship contenders like the Warriors have chemistry on their side, Walton believes there are two keys to the style president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka want the Lakers to play.
“It takes effort and commitment,” Walton said of the uptempo game. “You’ve got to want to play at that pace. We had a commitment from everyone on the team before training camp, that that’s who we’re going to be.
“Obviously, every night is not going to look like that, but I think it was a good visual for the guys to see what we’re capable of when we take the ball out of the net quickly and throw it ahead, when we get stops and we’re looking ahead instead of just dribbling it up ourselves. We have a lot of dangerous weapons that can attack the rim.”
With teams attempting to outshoot the Warriors, the Lakers prioritized tough playmakers during the offseason instead. While shooting is a premium in today’s NBA, the hope is players like Ingram, Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can all become consistent shooters with more open looks from James.
As the Lakers will play the Warriors again in the preseason finale, the priority is health. With almost a week before the season opener against the Portland Trail Blazers on the road, the Lakers will continue to focus on defense if they want to be one of the fastest-paced teams.
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