On Wednesday night, the Lakers concluded a tumultuous 2016-17 season with nine more wins than they had the year before.
The game ended a bit like the season ended. The Lakers fell behind big before making a final push to finish strong.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 109-94 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
1. Coach Luke Walton is realistic about what to expect when facing the Warriors, but he was really pleased with what he saw in the fourth quarter. “In the fourth it got fun again,” he said. “This is the cream of the crop of the NBA. The first three, even though they were hitting shots and they probably would’ve been winning anyway, I didn’t think our competitive level was where it’s been for the last five games and then in the fourth quarter we put a group out there that started flying around on defense and getting in passing lanes. It got a lot of fun when that happened.”
2. Larry Nance Jr. started once again and played most of that fourth quarter. “It’s been good,” he said of the starts he’s gotten with the Lakers’ smaller lineup later in the season. “For I think both us as a team and me individually in terms of my self-confidence. I think it helped our defense. If nothing else our defense certainly took a jump, which is nice to see. Going forward I’m not really worried about it. Starting, bench, it’s all the same.” Nance finished the game with 13 points, three steals and 11 rebounds.
3. Brandon Ingram finished his season by taking on a player he looks up to and can use an example. Kevin Durant, who is amping up for a playoff run after returning from injury, had a monster night with 29 points in 27 minutes. But for Ingram, that kind of experience is part of what was valuable about his rookie season.
4. Walton and the Lakers’ front office have already formulated their plans for what they want the players to work on during the off-season. Those plans will be distributed to the players after a break of a couple weeks.
5. Tyler Ennis played the entire fourth quarter and was part of the defensive effort Walton liked. What lies in his future is uncertain. But that’s the case for many of his teammates heading into a critical off-season for the Lakers. Ennis will be a free agent this summer.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli