The big stories from Friday night’s game were the dust-up that got Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell and Milwaukee’s Greg Monroe ejected following a hard foul by Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, along with Lakers Coach Luke Walton’s postgame comments about how that incident was officiated.
They overshadowed everything else during the game. Russell got another chance to prove himself. The Lakers got another chance to show they are capable of a better effort than they’ve showed in the past.
That and more as we look at five takeaways from the Lakers’ 107-103 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks:
1. Walton is not a pushover. That’s a takeaway not just from Friday night’s game, but the two before it. This week, we saw three examples of Walton’s temper bubbling over, and each time there was a different reason. After games against the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets, his anger was directed at a lack of effort from his players. On Friday, after playing the Bucks, Walton fired off in support of his players. His comments Friday night probably will get him fined, the second time this season that’s happened. He’s trying to foster trust among his players and himself, and his willingness to stand up for them should matter. The message is clear: I’m with you.
2. There was a lot of talk about unity from the Lakers players Friday night. “It means a lot,” Young said of his teammates’ coming to his defense after he was struck in the head by Brogdon while attempting a layup. “These young guys is fighting for each other. It’s some team unity. It’s basketball. I’m glad they were right there for me.” Larry Nance Jr. had a similar thought: “I just saw my teammate get pushed, and I reacted. I’m glad I didn’t get thrown out — really glad. My wallet’s really glad.”
3. The view from the other side was similar. While Lakers players felt they were defending each other, and the incident changed the game, Bucks players felt Monroe, who was ejected from the game, was merely defending his teammates. “I thought it was a good, clean foul,” Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton said. “Hard, but a clean play by Malcolm. Nick Young overreacted a little bit, and Greg was just out there trying to protect his teammate.”
4. Russell’s stats weren’t amazing, but he was more aggressive than in the last few games coming off the bench. “He was doing what we asked him to do,” Walton said. “He was trying to get downhill, put pressure on their defense and knock down a couple jump shots. I thought he was playing himself into a good game, and he had built up some momentum for us before he got tossed.” Russell said he was trying to attack the basket more and stay relevant.
5. Walton loved the effort he got in the second half of the game, even before the fight, which occurred at the end of the third quarter. He was less pleased with the Lakers’ performance in the first half, when they trailed, 61-46. “We went under [screens] on shooters we weren’t supposed to go under on,” Walton said. “We weren’t supposed to get beat back door, and we did get beat back door about two or three times. We weren’t executing, which means we weren’t mentally locked in the first half.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli