BREAKING NEWS
L.A. Now

Even in their losses, Lakers are showing they're not scared of anyone

So far this season, the Lakers haven’t lost a game by more than 30 points.

In their history, the Lakers have lost 15 games by 39 or more points and one third of those happened last season. This year’s team is a little bit different.

“I think our group just mentally is getting stronger as far as the way we go out and play,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said Thursday. “We are not scared of other teams, we are up for the challenge each night and when you lose, it makes you hungrier and hungrier and I think they came out and said enough was enough and made plays all night long.”

The Lakers beat the Houston Rockets 122-116 on Wednesday, ending their winning streak at 14 games. The Lakers took the Golden State Warriors to overtime on Monday and were competitive against the Cleveland Cavaliers before losing by nine points.

Having said this year’s team isn’t scared of other teams, Walton was asked if last year’s team was scared.

“No … we splintered too easily last year and when things got tough, we tried to do things on our own instead of sticking and doing it as a team,” Walton said. “Which is kind of what you have to do in this league to be able to win on the road and beat teams that are at the top of the league.”

Cookout for bonding

Thursday’s practice was just an appetizer for the Lakers.

The main course? A barbecue at associate head coach Brian Shaw’s East Bay home. To prepare the grill, Shaw didn’t attend practice.

“BShaw is a grill master,” Walton said after practice. “So we are going to his house to have a cookout right now. It’s optional but most of the team is going.”

It was a light practice anyway. The players were all required to do some core strength work, but beyond that they could make of the session what they wanted. The team busses arrived at Oracle Arena around 1 p.m.

“I wanted to get in the gym,” Walton said. “I think it’s great for our guys to be in here, blast some music, let them play shooting games against each other. It was kind of what we call a ‘get-what-you-need day.’ … Everyone was required to do the core strength work for 15 and besides that it was treatment, shots, one-on-one and all the coaches are here available for the players for what they want to do.”

Some played one-on-one against each other. Some got extra treatment on their bodies. Some shot the ball from inside a tunnel like Warriors point guard Stephen Curry often does before games. Brandon Ingram only did the core work and received treatment.

Afterward, they piled into the busses and for a voluntary team bonding activity at Shaw’s house.

“I like his ribs,” point guard Lonzo Ball said. “So I’m looking forward to that today.”

Said Walton: “I don’t know what he is cooking today but when I played for him, he used to make chicken wings and bring them into practice and they were unbelievable.”

Shooting contest

Ball and Kyle Kuzma continued their season-long three-point shooting series against the coaches. On a normal day their opponents are Shaw and assistant coach Miles Simon. On Thursday, Walton filled in for Shaw.

“Every time Luke steps in, we get very confident,” Ball said.

Kuzma’s shooting picked up right where it left off Wednesday night, when he made his first eight shots and first six three-pointers.

“Kuz shot the ball very well today,” Walton said. “He started shooting left-handed at one point. And they still beat us. It’s not a good sign for our future as players.”

Ball said that the coaches led the players 4-1 earlier this season, but he and Kuzma have since made a comeback and are leading the series 6-5.

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
70°