The story from Thursday night was more about the way the Lakers are rallying behind Lonzo Ball as he works through his shooting struggles than it was about the game itself.
What I noticed most about the game against the Wizards in Washington was the way the team is supporting Ball as they hope to get there. Although Ball mentioned two nights previous that he has been working on footwork as a way to improve his balance on shots, coach Luke Walton was reticent to talk about that. Instead he answered reporters' questions by noting that every player has mechanical corrections that need to be made as they enter the NBA.
It reminds me a little bit of last season's hesitance to discuss Brandon Ingram's size. Walton often said he was fine with Ingram's size and that Ingram was stronger than he looked. Ingram was a skinny 19-year-old who needed to put on muscle in order to really be successful in the NBA, but the Lakers knew a lot of that would happen as he got older and filled into his body.
Here are some other takeaways from the Lakers' 111-95 loss to the Wizards.
1. It looked for a while like this would be one of only two games this season in which the Lakers never had a chance. They did make a push in the fourth quarter to get themselves within nine points, but against a good team on the second night of a back-to-back, they didn't have enough. "I think we mentally gave in a little bit," Walton said. "Our guys were trying. It is hard. Not to make excuses but when you fly across the country and you play against two of the best teams in the East, these teams will be competing for an Eastern Conference title later this year. … Let's learn from this. Take the whipping we took and get better from this."
2. Walton was asked how he will keep Ball from losing confidence in his shot. "It's different for everyone," he said. "I played with Kobe Bryant. I've seen him miss 14 straight shots and get pissed off that we didn't give him the ball back on that 15th play, so some people don't ever lose confidence."
3. There is some weariness from opponents about all the conversation concerning Ball, but they aren't directing that at the player himself. Someone asked Markieff Morris about facing Ball that night. "Going up against Lonzo?" he said, according to the quote sheet provided by the Wizards. "I went up against the Lakers. John [Wall] went up against Lonzo. He's a young guy. Man, it's a long season. Rookies tend to hit walls. He's young, man. He's got some time."
4. The Lakers had been leaning on their defense to keep them in games and to win some that they might not have otherwise. Against Boston and Washington they struggled defensively to start the game. Boston was more physical, or as Walton put it, "they punked us." Washington was more sharp. In the first quarter the Wizards shot better than 60% against the Lakers. Meanwhile, the Lakers made only 36% of their shots overall.
5. Ingram knows a little bit about what Ball is experiencing. "Every game I played maybe up until April, … I didn't feel good about my shot at all," Ingram said. "I was thinking it'll come quicker." Ingram was also a second overall pick, but he didn't have nearly the same pressure that Ball faces. He also said that Ball, as the point guard, is in a position in whjch his teammates can help him get better at that particular part of his game.