The last time Lakers coach Luke Walton was ejected from a game, like he was Wednesday night, it also was against a team that employed DeMarcus Cousins. This time, though, Cousins had nothing to do with it.
Instead, the night’s drama centered around two former Celtics point guards.
When Walton was asked whether he could speak about the events leading up to his ejection, he thought about it.
“I can, but I’m going to choose not to,” he said, saving himself from a fine for criticizing the officials. “Yeah, I choose not to speak on that.”
He later said he’d “had enough” by then.
In addition to Walton’s ejection, the game didn’t go well for L.A. Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 139-117 loss to the Pelicans.
1. The Lakers’ defense took another step back on Wednesday. They gave up 79 points by halftime — one point away from the Pelicans’ franchise record for points in a half. The Lakers were one of the best defensive teams in the league to start 2018. “We’ve got to get our mojo back,” Walton said. “We somehow lost it quickly. The last two games, offensively, we’ve been fine; we’re just not playing any defense. We’ve had breakdowns from the three-point line, our three-point defense, our switching. Simple pin-downs, simple parts of the game defensively, we’ve stopped executing, and it’s why we’ve made such a big point of what we want to do this year. It doesn’t matter how good your offense [is] if you’re not going to play defense.”
2. The Lakers made a trade that sent Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cavaliers. In the two games since the trade deadline, the Lakers gave up 130 points to the Mavericks and 139 points to the Pelicans. It’s not really about the new guys — Channing Frye didn’t play in his first game as a Laker, and Isaiah Thomas played less than five minutes against the Pelicans. But it could be about losing two players who understood the Lakers’ defensive coverages and had worked hard to buy into what Walton asked of them. Nance especially made his mark. It’s not a stretch to say the Lakers miss that.
3. New Orleans wasn’t afraid of the Lakers’ pace offensively. “I said to the guys tonight, ‘We really won’t have to worry about pace tonight because they really get up and down the court,’ ” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We like to play that way also, so we invited them to play that way.” New Orleans’ offense was clicking. Anthony Davis scored 42 points, and as a team, the Pelicans had 35 assist to the Lakers’ 26, with Jrue Holiday tallying 11.
4. Here’s some good news: The Lakers’ abysmal free-throw shooting has improved. In three of the last four games, they’ve shot better than 80% from the line. On Wednesday, the Lakers made 15 of 18 free throws.
5. Brandon Ingram had been shooting three-pointers well lately, but Wednesday’s game wasn’t an example of that. He attempted only one and didn’t make it. Ingram started slow, missing four of his first five shots, but then made eight of his next 12 attempts. He also had another explosive dunk that looked a lot like the one he had against the Suns last week.