Lonzo Ball fully comprehends how playing in purple and gold resonates, so the rookie was determined to do his part to keep the defending champion Golden State Warriors from sweeping the Lakers for the first time in his lifetime.
Yet even with a watered-down lineup void of the injured backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors swept their division rival for the first time since 1994 with a 117-106 triumph Wednesday at Oracle Arena.
“It felt to me that our guys ran out of gas a little bit,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton, whose team was coming off a victory over Denver on Tuesday at Staples Center.
While Ball’s recent struggles from three-point range continued with a one-of-8 showing, the Lakers were outrebounded 50-33 and surrendered 34 third-quarter points with Warriors forward Kevin Durant (26 points, six assists) showing he can handle himself just fine without his usual brilliant cast.
The frustration of the second half, when Golden State leaned on a 12-0 run to inflate their lead from a halftime tie, was seen when Lakers Julius Randle and Isaiah Thomas had heated words, with center Brook Lopez intervening.
“We expect a lot out of each other … it’s just communicating,” Randle said after scoring 22 points with 10 rebounds. “We want to win. We expect to win these games and we expect each other to play at a certain level, so it’s just us being teammates, nothing personal.”
Thomas said the injury void of Kyle Kuzma (ankle) and Brandon Ingram was felt during the back-to-back, calling his discussion with Randle, “two basketball players competing. We just happened to be yelling. We want the best for each other. There was a misunderstanding at one point. We talked about it. We’re good. It’s just me leading. If I see something, I’m going to say something.”
Ball capped a scrappy effort to rally his team from a 10-point second-quarter deficit. At the halftime buzzer, he tipped in a shot by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to make it 55-55.
A fit of Lakers sloppiness early in the third coincided with a scoring flurry by ex-Laker Nick Young, and the Warriors surged on the 12-0 run to assert control.
Wednesday morning brought news that a Tuesday night MRI on Thompson’s right (shooting) thumb found a fracture, meaning he and backcourt mate Curry (tweaked right ankle) joined injured starting forward Draymond Green (shoulder) on the shelf.
Thompson will be reevaluated next week.
Following a Tuesday team meeting with motivational speaker Tony Robbins, Kerr tried to put a positive spin on the absences with his team trailing the Houston Rockets by 11/2 games for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference standings with 14 games remaining in the regular season.
He noted Thompson played in 530 of 542 games before being injured in Minnesota on Sunday.
“He’s running everywhere, chasing the team’s best guard … without the thumb, we were thinking of giving the guy a day off or two,” Kerr said.
“We just have to move the ball, be aggressive, don’t pass up a shot. Without Steph, what’s that … 75 shots that are available?”
The thinking proved sound as seven Warriors scored in double figures, including 15 from reserve forward Omri Casspi and 18 from Young, who made three of eight three-pointers.