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Lakers focus on transition defense in practice after blowout to Raptors

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After a highly disappointing result against Toronto, Luke Walton and the Lakers are back to focusing on some key aspects of their defense.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off easily their worst loss of the season; a blowout defeat against the Toronto Raptors in which they gave up one of the worst quarters in franchise history.

Having two free days before their next game, the team decided to focus on making the necessary tweaks to ensure another game like that doesn’t happen anytime soon.

Luke Walton hasn’t liked how the Lakers have opened games, and said a major focus of the Lakers’ practice on Tuesday was getting back on defense.

“We have our staples on defense and that’s the main one. The rest of our defense doesn’t matter if we don’t get back,” Walton said. “So we worked on transition. We worked on some individual defense and offensively, we just continued to work on trying to clean up some of the execution.”

Defense takes a combination of work ethic and actual ability. Merely getting back on defense doesn’t really have anything to do with the latter, so breakdowns in that regard seem a little extra frustrating for the third-year head coach.

“Transition defense is habits and effort,” Walton said. “It doesn’t take talent to get back on defense, but it is habits; it’s getting back on the release of your teammate’s shot and doing it every time. So, we repped it, and repped it, and repped it today.”

The thing about transition defense is how linked to the offense it will always be. Merely scoring forces the opposition to take the ball out of the basket and allows the defense to set up. Turnovers and long rebounds puts the transition defense in a bad spot. Furthermore, given the amount of switching and cross-matching that the Lakers utilize defensively, any advantage that defenses get from how the offense operates is all the more meaningful.

Beyond all that, though, the longer the Lakers play together and understand how best to communicate as a group, the better they’ll get when proper effort is displayed. But, as Luke said above, it all starts with work ethic. If the Lakers don’t figure that out, it doesn’t really matter which principles they try to implement.