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Five takeaways from the Lakers’ 110-100 loss to the Indiana Pacers

You might recall that the last time the Lakers played the Indiana Pacers, they set a dubious record.

Their two-for-14 free throw performance marked the worst free throw percentage (.142) in NBA history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. In the aftermath lots of experts called Luke Walton.

“Somebody recommended the golf movie with Kevin Costner,” Walton said.

“Tin Cup,” he was told.

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“There you go,” he said. “Somebody recommended watching that one.”

Despite all the calls, the Lakers didn’t do anything dramatic to improve their free-throw shooting. They didn’t hire a shooting coach. They just kept trying to teach players about mindfulness and hoped that changed things for the better.

Whatever works, is Walton’s motto. Even if someone wanted to shoot underhanded.

“If it works I would be totally fine with it,” Walton said. “I’m not going to tell any of our guys to shoot it underhand, but if that’s something someone’s comfortable with and they make it I’m all for it. If it goes in it doesn’t matter how it comes out.”

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Nobody did that, either, but the Lakers’ free-throw shooting has improved. Though they are still last in the league in free-throw percentage, they have ranked 16th since the All-Star break.

Free throws weren’t a major factor Monday night in Indianapolis. Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 110-100 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

1. Defense goes first. This Lakers team has been really proud of its defensive improvement over last season, but their defense struggled Monday night. When Walton was asked about the defense, he asked for a clarification of whose defense the question referenced, then said, “Our lack of defense?” The Pacers got plenty of open looks and made 15 of 20 shots in the third quarter after 12 of 22 in the second quarter (we’ll be focusing plenty on those two periods, by the way). Walton said he thought the Lakers’ hot shooting early lulled them into falsely thinking this game would be about offense.

2. Lonzo Ball’s play has been mercurial this season and Monday night he was less aggressive than he is when he’s at his best. He took only four shots, all of them three-pointers, and made only one. When he did penetrate into the paint, Ball almost exclusively looked for his teammates. “I think I need to be more aggressive, especially tonight,” Ball said. “But at the same time we have a lot of guys who can shoot the ball. So someone has to pass so it’s kind of my job to get everybody the ball, but I’d definitely like to score a little bit more.”

3. It wasn’t just Ball. The Lakers got really solid production out of their frontcourt and not much out of their guards. Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Isaiah Thomas combined to make eight of 28 shots. Caldwell-Pope missed both of his two-point attempts and five of his three-point attempts. Thomas missed all five of his three-point attempts. And we’ve already discussed Ball. This was a function of the difference in the matchups. The Pacers’ guards are talented and the Lakers emphasized utilizing the mismatches they had available to them up front.

4. Give Thomas credit, though, for keeping a consistent message even though the playoffs are out of reach for the Lakers at this point. When they still had a small chance he was preaching that they needed to go for that eighth seed. Now that they don’t, he still wants his young teammates to believe in their ability to do great things. “You’ve gotta believe,” Thomas said. “You’ve gotta play damn near perfect on the road though, especially with a young team. You’ve gotta be the hardest-playing team, you’ve gotta be low on turnovers, you’ve gotta score the basketball. Soon, things gotta go your way. We’ve gotta turn it around.”

5. Brook Lopez has been a bright spot for the Lakers lately as they’ve seemed to focus more on getting him going. “We just continue to talk about starting inside-out as a team, kind of getting easy stuff towards the rim,” Lopez said. “I think it gets a lot of our guys going and get a little confident from that.” Lopez scored 23 points on Monday night. Power forward Julius Randle scored 21 and Kyle Kuzma, playing out of position at small forward, scored 27 points.

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tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli


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