Lonzo Ball’s 20th birthday celebration ended with a whimper as the Toronto Raptors beat the Lakers 101-92, while Ball and the rest of the starters watched extended periods of the second half from the bench.
Unhappy with how his starters were playing defense against Toronto, coach Luke Walton took out his entire starting five with just under four minutes left in the game and the Lakers down eight. Walton explained after the game that he was teaching his young team a lesson.
“I took the starters out a little early in the third because they didn’t get back in transition defense. which is our No. 1 key to being a good defensive team. We talked about how important that third quarter was with the momentum of the game changing and them being a playoff team, so we can’t afford to give those up so as a teaching lesson we took them out a little earlier than I normally have done.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get back on defense again with four minutes to go in a close winnable game. You can’t just give away free points. To let them know how serious we are about transition defense, we pulled them out again…. When they didn’t get back on the break, they are telling me and each other…