The first night under new head coach Luke Walton was a successful one as the Los Angeles Lakers shook off a rough start to defeat the Sacramento Kings 103-84.
Offensively, things were up-and-down for the Lakers, but the team as a whole was far more active on the defensive end than they were most of last season, holding the Kings to 53 points over the final three-quarters.
Walton spoke early in training camp about focusing 80 percent of his practices on defense, and according to Lakers Nation’s Ryan Ward, there is still much room for improvement:
Luke Walton: “We’re going to continue to work on defense.” Said that’s where he thinks the team can really improve #Lakers
— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) October 5, 2016
Overall the Lakers forced 18 turnovers in the preseason opener and totaled 10 steals (led by three from D’Angelo Russell) and seven blocks (led by three from Larry Nance Jr). They held the Kings to 35.9 percent shooting from the field and 26.3 percent from three-point range.
Things weren’t all great for the Lakers, however, as they committed 28 fouls including five by Julius Randle in only 19 minutes. There were also a number of defensive lapses and breakdowns, particularly early in the game as the Lakers picked it up later on.
Nonetheless, the Lakers certainly had some standouts on that end, including Nance, Timofey Mozgov, and Jordan Clarkson. Nance and Mozgov are known for their defense, but Clarkson had also vowed to improve in that area over the summer and he certainly looked far better than last season.
It is only one preseason game so it would be wise not to read too much into it, but the Lakers under Walton seem more focused on the defensive end. Walton understands that there is still plenty of work to be done and he will make sure the team puts in the necessary time to improve.