The Los Angeles Lakers nearly erased a 23-point third-quarter deficit against the Denver Nuggets with a lineup sparked by the team’s young talent.
But with Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball all out with injuries, head coach Luke Walton had to turn to the Lakers other youngsters to get the effort he was looking for.
First-round pick Moe Wagner along with two-way players Alex Caruso and Jonathan Williams combined for 34 points and were the driving force for the Lakers’ second-half comeback attempt. “I loved it,” Walton said of their play.
“We’re looking for guys that are going to play the way we need to play. I understand where we’re at with the injuries, but there’s a certain way to play this game. The respect you (need) to show for the game, we found it in the second half with a couple different groups consisting of J3, A.C., Moe, Josh Hart, LeBron and Rondo coming in and out.”
Effort and energy has been an issue for the Lakers on both ends of the floor recently and this game showed how important simply playing hard can be. The group of Caruso, Williams, Wagner and Josh Hart had no business keeping up with the second-best team in the West, but made a huge run just by giving maximum effort.
“Win or lose, that’s how we need to play,” Walton said. “It’s more fun for the crowd that way, it’s the way the game is meant to be played, and it gives us our best chance to win.”
When the Lakers are completely healthy it is unlikely these players will see the amount of minutes they played on Wednesday night, particularly Williams and Caruso. But if the veterans continue to make minimal impact on the floor, Walton said he wouldn’t hesitate to turn back to them.
It’s an opportunity Caruso of course would welcome and look to continue bringing the same effort. “We’re out there just playing as hard as we can,” he said. ” I think we’re all really good complement players. Playing with guys like Rondo and LeBron, it’s really easy. You just set screens and shoot when you’re open, and when they throw it to you, shoot the layups, and play hard on defense.”
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