In the first quarter against the Magic, Ball had a +10 box plus-minus with 4 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and a block in 12 minutes. He did just about everything a player could do in a quarter.
Ball cooled down as the team as a whole started to, but there were many fans that felt he should have been on the floor with the game on the line. Lakers head coach Luke Walton said that he also wanted Ball on the floor, but decided to roll with the group that led the comeback in the fourth quarter.
“They did a nice job,” Walton said of the lineup he closed with. “I was trying to get Zo back into the game. I thought Zo was playing a very solid game, but that group had created some energy. KCP was flying around. I know he wasn’t making a lot of shots, but he had just hit a big three and defensively he was flying around and fighting over screens and coming up with loose balls.”
“They did a really nice job of playing the type of defense we need to play in the fourth quarter to win games. We just had dug a little bit too big a hole for ourselves.”
As a result, Ball sat the entire fourth quarter. On the season, he’s averaging 6.1 minutes per game in the fourth quarter, which is notably less than what Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart and Rajon Rondo are averaging. Lance Stephenson averages just as many minutes per game in the fourth as Ball does.
Whether it’s because Ball isn’t a reliable shooter, or Walton just prefers veterans down the stretch, it’s seemingly becoming evident that Ball isn’t someone Walton views as a closer, especially when factoring in this is far from the first time he’s opted for another closing option despite saying he felt Ball played well.
Perhaps that will change as Ball continues to get more comfortable within the flow of the offense, but until that happens, expect Walton to ride with whoever has the hot hand, which on most nights he hasn’t seemed to feel has been Lonzo.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.