The Los Angeles Lakers will head into Phoenix with heavy legs on Saturday after three different players logged more than 35 minutes in L.A.’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.
Rajon Rondo led the Lakers with a game-high 39:45, followed by Brandon Ingram (39:15) and LeBron James (38:49). Kyle Kuzma just missed the cut, finishing 37 seconds shy of playing 35 minutes.
Two other players — Reggie Bullock and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — played more than 20 minutes. In total, Walton played nine players and each player played more than 10 minutes.
It’s a change of pace for Walton, who usually likes to go anywhere between 10 to 11 men deep into his rotation, but it might be the status quo going forward. Following the game, Walton told reporters that he plans on cutting down his rotation.
“We’re going to shorten down the rotation a little bit, but we’re going to keep giving guys chances out there to see if someone’s having a night and that’ll change from game to game. Hopefully we’ll get Zo back at some point and he can be another piece to help us, but we’re shortening down the rotation for now,” Walton said.
When approached with those comments, James said that he doesn’t expect the same players to play big minutes every night.
“I think every night it’s going to be somebody else. Depending on how the game is going, coach is going to do what he feels is best for the team to be successful, so It’s not just about the guys playing big minutes,” James said. “We were (without) Lance tonight. We’ve still been without Zo, so guys are going to have to play a little more minutes than they usually have to, but I think the coaching staff and Luke will make the proper subs throughout the course of the game and see how the game is going.”
Unfortunately, James will likely be one of the few exceptions when it comes to guys playing less minutes than others.
Since the NBA All-Star break, James is averaging a team-high 38.9 minutes per game. Ingram isn’t too far behind him in that respect, averaging 36.8 minutes per game.
However, with the exception of James, Ingram, Rondo and Kuzma, expect the rotation to be fairly fluid from here on out. Bullock should also be a staple in the rotation — arguably more so than Rondo — but Walton often flip flops between him and Caldwell-Pope.
In a similar way that James activated his playoff mode, Walton needs to start showing he has what it takes to coach his teams to crucial wins. The Lakers could have closed out the game against Milwaukee on Friday, but Walton’s rotations doomed them in the final minutes of the game.
Walton can shrink his rotations all he wants, but until he puts his five best players out on the floor to close the game, the results will be the same.
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