14 Nov Luke Who’s Winning: Walton’s Lakers are 5-4
Down 19 in the first half, the Los Angeles Lakers of recent years would have easily given up another easy blow out loss. But not these current bunch of Lakers. Luke Walton’s Lakers rallied back, cut the lead to three at the end of three quarters. They opened the fourth quarter on another run and never looked back. The result? A 99-91 win over the Sacramento Kings on the road on Thursday.
The New Showtime?
‘Showtime’ was the nickname given to the Los Angeles in the 1980’s. That was a time when Magic Johnson run the show and James Worthy was on the finishing end of a tomahawk slam. Byron Scott and Michael Cooper were shooting them threes and the legendary Kareem Abdul Jabbar was scoring on skyhooks. The likes of Kurt Rambis and a young A.C. Green provided the muscle. The core of Showtime won five NBA world titles and was without doubt the best team of their era. When Magic and the gang retired, so went Showtime.
Kobe Bryant revived Showtime by leading Los Angeles to five NBA titles of his own. Bryant won three titles with Shaquille O’Neal and two on his own. But at the tail end of his career, even Kobe could not keep up the wining as he was unable to keep himself healthy and young again. Bryant retired last season having played for the worst Lakers team of All-Time. His 2016 Lakers finished the season with a 17-65 record. But that losing season ended in Bryant scoring 60 points in his swan song game. More than that, the Lakers ended the season on a positive note, earning a come-from-behind 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz. Then as he famously said, it was ‘Mamba out’.
Luke Walton In
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) April 30, 2016
To give their young team a fresh start, the Lakers signed Golden State Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton to a 5 year deal worth about $25M. Walton had become the biggest head coaching prospect after leading the Golden State Warriors to a 39-4 record while Steve Kerr was recovering from back surgery. More than his coaching resume, Walton played for the Lakers from 2003-2012 and was part of two title squads. Not only that, Walton is the link between the Lakers and winning because the last time the Lakers were in the playoffs was Luke Walton’s last season in the purple and gold. Since Walton’s retirement, the Lakers have won just 65 games in three NBA seasons. That’s bad, considering the winning tradition of the Lakers.
Walton’s arrival has given the Los Angeles Lakers a new look. The team is currently ranked 2nd in the NBA in Pace at 103.6 possessions per game. Because of their high octane game, the Lakers are the 4th best team in the NBA in scoring at 108.6 points per game. What makes this transformation more impressive is the fact that Lakers bench account for 49.9 points per game, the best in the NBA so far this season. No player is averaging more than 28 minutes per game and 9 are playing at least 20 minutes per outing so there’s been a distribution of wealth. So has Luke Walton brought with him the Golden State Warriors team effort mentality? Said Walton on his coaching style:
“A lot of ideas and philosophies come from Golden State. And Steve took a lot of things from Pop [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] in San Antonio. All the spacing and cutting, that came from Phil’s influence on Steve and I. Now, we can’t play like Golden State because no one else has the shooters they have. But we can still play an up-tempo style. Everyone is getting opportunities because we are sharing the ball. We have a deep team. We want to attack for 48 minutes.”
And attack they did on Thursday night against the Sacramento Kings after falling behind by 19 points.
Come From Behind Win
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 11, 2016
Watching Lou Williams hit big shot after big shot was like watching Kobe Bryant score 60 against the Jazz. Main difference on Thursday was that there were five Lakers in double digits: Lou Williams 21, DeAngelo Russell 17, Nick Young 16, Julius Randle 15 and Timofey Mozgov with 10. Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson also played crucial minutes for the Lake Show. Mozgov and Williams are both 30 years old. The rest of those Lakers mentioned are 24 years old or younger. That’s pretty scary considering the core members of this squad aren’t even in their mid-20’s yet. Usually, the trademark of an experienced team is its failure to execute late in games or a tendency to give up after falling down big. These Lakers don’t believe in both. Said Walton:
“It doesn’t surprise me that we’re in all of our ball games. We have got a group of guys that are very competitive. But it’s a new group together. Closing games is a tough thing to do at this level. We weren’t able to close out games early. The Atlanta game, they did it, and since then they have tried to sustain it. It’s going to be an up-and-down year, and we still are making a lot of mistakes. But they have found a knack and a belief in themselves and a team.”
Luke: "Our guys have proven when they play hard & they’re engaged in what they’re doing, they’re capable of beating anyone on any night.”
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 11, 2016
Make no mistake. The Lakers aren’t among the leaders in the team standings. They are 5-4 right now. But considering this franchise spent Christmas of 2015 with a 5-25 record, they have accomplished a lot already. And knowing they’ve beaten the likes of the Hawks, Rockets and Warriors this early, things are looking bright for the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s too early to tell but the small steps to progress are definitely there.
Beating the Kings isn’t a big deal. Sacramento, like the Lakers, have been struggling in recent years. But given the circumstances of that game: down 19 on the road and coming off a loss two days earlier, this was a defining moment for this young squad. Will it lead to more success? Finding consistency and keeping the momentum will be the next big challenge for Luke Walton and the Lakers. But for as long as they play hard and with determination, they’ve proven they can beat anybody ( remember the Warriors? ) on any night.
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