With their two wins to start this east coast road trip, the Lakers now have as many wins this December as they did all of last December.
This probably won’t be it for the Lakers this month.
Last night the Lakers faced a depleted Charlotte Hornets and took full advantage of the team’s weaknesses. Here are five takeaways from the Lakers 110-99 win over the Hornets.
1. It’s impossible to say that something is a trend for certain, but lately the Lakers have been getting better in the fourth quarter. Take three games as samples. Against the Nuggets on Dec. 2, the Lakers failed to score at all for the game’s final 3:57 and lost on a 15-0 Denver run. Against the 76ers on Dec. 7, the Lakers gave up a 16-point third quarter lead and found themselves in a slugfest in the fourth quarter that they ultimately won. Then they went to Charlotte and last night thoroughly dominated the fourth quarter on their way to a convincing win. This is progress.
2. This is the kind of progress Luke Walton knew he would see based on the Lakers’ habits in games and in practices. “This is a sign of growth for sure,” Walton said Saturday night. “And even Philly was a sign of growth because even though we blew a 16-point lead, what would’ve happened in the past was once we blew that lead we would’ve just completely melted down. And that’s what we’ve done, especially on the road. We’ve been able to win some of those games at home, but on the road we haven’t been able to find a way once that crowd gets into it to get the defensive stops you need to win games. We [won] in Philly and we did that again tonight.”
3. When Walton preaches patience for Lonzo Ball, his example is Brandon Ingram. There were a few hundred people from his hometown of Kinston, N.C., at last night’s game, people who made the four-hour drive to Charlotte. He said after shootaround that he was excited to show those people that he was a different player this year than last year when they came to see him. Ingram showed right away that he was. He scored four points against the Hornets last year; this year, he scored 18.
4.) Ball didn’t play in the fourth quarter at all and when asked about it, Walton got a little bit defensive. He pointed out that Ball isn’t the only player he’s had sitting out in fourth quarters, and said without a sure-fire closing group, the Lakers are going to go with whoever is hot. As for Ball, he said Saturday night he had no problem with Walton’s decision to stay with the group he had in the game to finish it.
5.) Kyle Kuzma had a nice bounce back game on Saturday. He only scored three points on 1-of-7 shooting on Thursday in Philadelphia. Against the Hornets, he secured his eighth double-double of the season with 12 points and 14 rebounds. That was also a career high for rebounds.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli