Lonzo Ball’s triple-double rightfully dominated headlines Sunday night into a fresh week, but the Los Angeles Lakers were in full swing as a team against the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers dished out a season-high 36 assists on 53 made field goals, with 11 of those dimes coming from Lonzo.
“There was a great commitment to that,” Julius Randle said of the Lakers’ focus on making the extra pass as a group. “The ball movement was fantastic, and it made stuff easy on the offensive end.”
“We work on it, so I guess it just kinda kicked in,” Randle concluded.
Head coach Luke Walton shared a similar sentiment to Randle after the game, noting that even when Ball isn’t on the floor, the way the team has been practicing in El Segundo on pushing the ball attributes to the tempo everyone plays with.
“[Lonzo’s] always kind of responsible for our pace, I think even on nights where he doesn't play as much. The way that he just constantly throws it ahead in practice and in games is carrying over to the rest of the guys as far as how we want to play,” Walton said.
The Lakers raked in an offensive rating of 122.3 points per 100 possessions against Denver. That’s a far cry from the 98.9 points per 100 possessions the Lakers are averaging on the season, putting them in 28th place. That lowly number is still near the bottom even after an incredibly strong night from the Lakers’ offense.
Scoring is secondary for the Lakers, though, who’ve been focused on improving on the defensive end. Brook Lopez made it a point to tip his hat to their defensive effort when asked about their hot offensive outing.
“We were very unselfish on the offensive end and got a lot of easy looks for everybody, and our defense was on point as well,” Brook Lopez said after the game.
Why is that important to the overall theme here? Ball pulled down 13 defensive rebounds while becoming the first rookie guard in over a decade to grab 16 boards in a game. Defensive stops create fast break opportunities, which is exactly what Coach Luke has been preaching about for the last five months or so.
“I'm a point guard so it takes about two-to-three seconds off,” Ball said of the advantage grabbing a defensive rebound gives him. “I already got the ball so I can just push it, and early offense.”
When the Lakers’ defense is rolling, it can be a thing of beauty watching them tearing up the court:
“It's what we've been saying the whole time. Even when he's not scoring the ball, he has rebounds and assists, steals,” Walton said of Lonzo’s work on the boards. “16 [rebounds], it's a lot, I'm not totally shocked by it. He's really good down there on the glass.”
Walton made what may have been the most poignant point of the season as he wrapped up talking about his star pupil, who just collected his second triple-double on the same pace as LeBron James.
“The media will probably love him tomorrow and hate him again the next day, and he's going to stay level-headed and keep doing what he does, and we're going to keep saying we support him, and he's going to keep getting better.
“And that's just gonna probably be the process of how this whole thing plays out, but he was really good again tonight.”
*All quotes transcribed via Lakers.com