The Los Angeles Lakers received a balance effort Sunday night en route to a blowout win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, which helped Staples Center make history.
Anthony Davis did not play due to a calf strain, but the Lakers had no issues carving up a Timberwolves team that was without Karl-Anthony Towns. Los Angeles scored 40 points in the first quarter and never looked back, getting almost any look they wanted on the floor.
Kyle Kuzma led the team in scoring with 20 points, including 14 in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Marc Gasol finally got more involved in the offense as he finished with a near triple-double (12 points, seven rebounds, eight assists).
However, the more encouraging takeaway was the defense as the Lakers held the Timberwolves to only 37% shooting from the field, forced 18 turnovers that led to 20 points, and had a whopping 14 blocked shots. With so many new pieces on the roster, the defense is going to take time to reach its full potential but it took an encouraging step forward.
Minnesota head coach Ryan Saunders nonetheless praised Los Angeles’ defense, noting it set a tone early on, via Greg Beacham of the Associated Press:
TWolves coach Ryan Saunders on the Lakers: "There’s a reason they’re the world champs. They take you out of things. They’re a really good defensive team, and they don't get enough credit for that. They had a sense of urgency from the start."
— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) December 28, 2020
Defense was the Lakers’ calling card during title run last season, and so far head coach Frank Vogel and his players have continued to emphasize it. Vogel’s reputation as a defensive-minded coach is well-founded and he revealed he focused on that end prior to their matchup against the T-Wolves.
“Well we scored 138 points the last game, so I drilled our guys about defense this morning,” Vogel said. “We have to be better on that side of the ball. We want to set a standard of being one of the best defensive teams in the league. We did some good things, but certainly room for improvement.”
Despite the departure of key defensive players, Vogel believes the Lakers can be just as good defensively this season although it remains to be seen how that will look.
Alex Caruso assesses Lakers defense
Alex Caruso is one of the Lakers’ best defensive players, and he offered an honest assessment of where he thinks the team can improve through three games. “Just being more consistent with our principles” Caruso explained.
“We have a good system in place for our team. I think it’s just about getting the continuity of it down and the repetitions. Making sure it becomes a second nature kind of thing rather than think and react. That comes with time. At the beginning of last year I don’t think we were as good defensively as we were in the later part of the year and the playoffs. There’s always room to grow. You never expect to be at your best early in the year.
“We’ve got a ways to go and I think we’re going to be as good defensively as we’re capable of being. The effort is there, the want to get better, the want to succeed and do things the right way is there. That’s the most important thing.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!