As Julius Randle barreled up the Staples Center court Friday night in the final seconds of the Lakers’ overtime loss to Milwaukee, coach Luke Walton had to make a decision.
He could call a timeout, settle his young, energetic team down and try to draw up a winning play. He had one timeout left, his team only down a point.
Or, Walton could put trust in his young Lakers and push them out of the nest to see if they could fly before going splat.
Walton chose the latter.
Randle drove and had his potential go-ahead shot blocked by Tyler Zeller.
“I do like letting guys go before the defense can get set. Late, when you’re losing, if you can try to get down and score quick and you don’t score, you still have a chance to foul if they miss a free throw. You can advance it and get a good look,” Walton said. “The thought process was, ‘Let’s see if we can get a quick one up and [win] this game. And if not, we still give us ourselves another chance.’ … As we grow as a team, my preference is when we get that stop or we get that ball and it’s still a one-possession game, to let the guys go.
“Let somebody make a play.”
After Giannis Antetokounmpo split on a pair of free throws, Walton again elected to let his team go without a timeout, but Kyle Kuzma’s three-point shot for the win missed badly.
In between free throws, Walton called a play from the sidelines.
“We had a play, just dialogue, from just talking. It wasn’t a timeout but in a sense it was,” Kuzma said. “It’s valuable for us for the future as we get more mature and play more in those types of games.”
It wasn’t perfect. Walton would’ve preferred to see Kuzma attack the basket instead of shooting a contested three.
Walton’s decision to play without calling a timeout was supported by his players.
“I think there are pros and cons for both ways,” center Brook Lopez said. “I think, for us, we play great in the open court. I think we have a great chance just going and attacking without the defense getting set. Even though they’re young, we still trust them in those situations.”
Not a strong start
While the Lakers won’t be playing in the playoffs for the fifth straight season, they still have goals for the final weeks of the season.
One of those goals — to finish with a top-10 defense after the All-Star break — took a serious blow Friday night when the Bucks scored 97 points through three quarters.
“Obviously, pretty much in the first three quarters, it was as bad as I’ve seen us play, defensively,” Walton said. “They were shooting rhythm shots. [Eric] Bledsoe might as well have been in a gym by himself just shooting three-pointers.”
The Lakers locked up the Bucks in the fourth quarter, giving up only 15 points.
“The fourth quarter was good, really good, defensively,” Walton said. “[Before,] I don’t know what it was. I think they had 31 points off of our turnovers. That was a huge key for us tonight. That didn’t help our defense. The ball was just moving freely wherever they wanted. It seemed like that effort and execution wasn’t up to our standard.”
Lakers forward Brandon Ingram, who left Friday night’s game against Milwaukee because of a neck injury, has been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol after he was re-evaluated Saturday. He will not play in Sunday’s game.
Ingram appeared to be hurt on a foul late in the fourth quarter. He tried to play in overtime but was unable to finish.
The team said the second-year forward, who was playing in his second game after missing 12 because of a groin injury, exhibited signs of concussion symptoms during his evaluation Saturday.
Ingram finished with 12 points on five-for-seven shooting, making both of his three-point shots, three rebounds and six assists against the Bucks. He also missed all three of his free throws and had five turnovers.
Ingram was selected with the second overall pick in the 2016 draft. He is averaging 16.1 points on 47% shooting, 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists a game this season.
The Lakers have also listed Lonzo Ball as doubtful. Ball suffered a bruise on his left knee after colliding with Dirk Nowitzki on Wednesday.
When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday
On the air: TV — Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes, Radio — 710, 1330
Update: The Lakers have won two of the three meetings this season against the Kings, who host the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli