The Los Angeles Lakers took a break from falling deeper into the lottery standings to grab a 121-107 road win over the slumping New York Knicks on Monday night.
Bigger than the win was how the Lakers won it. Head coach Luke Walton made waves coming into the game by moving the Lakers’ two highest-paid (but disappointing) players, Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng, to the bench in favor of Brandon Ingram and Tarik Black.
The latter was outstanding as part of a solid effort from the entire Lakers’ team, but while the easy connection to make for their sudden success would be to credit the new lineups, Walton wasn’t so sure.
“I don’t know if it was the new lineup but we got a great team effort,” Walton told Bill Oram of the Orange County Register following the game. “We’re starting to play consistent defense, which is the first step in kind of building that side of the identity.”
Some of this is stuff Walton has to say as part of politicking with the locker room. Admitting the lineup change spurred things would be:
a) giving an awful Knicks team way too little credit for the Lakers’ success
b) taking credit for himself
c) essentially admitting outright that the new starters were better than the old ones
and d) putting way too much value on such a small sample size
HOWEVER, there are also reasons to believe Walton might be on to something here. His three-most used lineups against the Knicks were all great defensively:
Again, the Knicks suck and the Lakers can’t take too much away from this game. That being said, it still looks as though Walton has reasons to be impressed with his new favored personnel groupings, and that he should probably stick with them going forward if they are able to approximate anything close to this level of play.
All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.