LOS ANGELES – For a furious three-minute stretch on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers displayed the child of basketball Luke Walton envisioned: smothering and inspired the defense of high-speed zipping through the air.
Louis Vuitton's bag for New Orleans, the Lakers exploded for a frenzied 16-0 second-quarter run, culminating with a Brandon Ingram highlights slam over corey brewer on the secondary break.
LeBron James leaps out of his seat and spreads his arms out like wings as Ingram punctuates his best night as a pro with a career-high 36 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. The Lakers' inexperience and inconsistency, and the 76ers exited Staples Center with a 121-105 win.
Rondo has gone down on Christmas and the Lakers have either committed careless turnovers, fouled, missed shots or had defensive breakdowns to lose in frustrating ways. Or as what the case on Tuesday, LA could not match the Sixers' star firepower.
LeBron James, out with a strained groin, took full-court contact drills in practice for the first time since the injury
"We play really hard, we are right there and then we want to have a — ty quarter or stretch Or the other team wants to go seven and then it's like, 'Holy Lord, what is happening?' Which is totally natural when you are a young and somewhat new group, "Walton said of the Lakers without James and Rondo. "With LeBron and Rondo – and LeBron being the best in the world – [it’s like]'Oh, the other team is on a 5-0 run? Hold on. Let me go get this bucket.' And now we're up with one moment, and the other with the momentum. "
" [The injuries to James and Rondo] does not completely change what we can do and how we play
With 51 games gone, the Lakers are capable of shocking the Warriors in Oakland but also dropping embarrassing home losses to the Knicks and Cavs. Anthony Davis, Magic Johnson is still waiting to see what his team can look like at full strength.
Once as high as fourth in the Western Conference (18-11 on Dec. 16), the Lakers had visions of making noise in the postseason.
"The season's ticking down," Kyle Kuzma said Thursday after the loss at home to Minnesota. Every Game Matters, Every Possession. "
" It's tough to say. "I missed 60 games," Rondo deadpanned on Sunday, his second game back from a right-hand injury. "LeBron missed 48. So, it's tough to assess it, but I think I love our mental toughness, we've had some tough stretches, but it's been a long season.
" Walton started training camp.
The Lakers are at their best when they defend, which feeds the running game and drives the pace
After a five-season stretch in which they ranked 28th, 29th, 30th, 30th and 12th defensively, the 2018-2019 Lakers entered Tuesday ranked seventh, ahead of the Raptors, Sixers and Warriors:
The coaching staff did not know before the season which defensive scheme would fit best wit h so many new parts. One-through-five to dropping JaVale McGee back in the paint like Utah's Rudy Gobert.
Following the arrival of Tyson Chandler, who signed on Nov. 6, LA's defensive ranked fourth over a 23-game stretch (104.1 points allowed per 100 possessions), a sweeping difference after starting the first 11 games ranked 23rd.
"We got there, we were starting to do [what was needed defensively]," Walton said , "And that's when all those damn injuries happened."
The latest setback? A grade 3 ankle sprain to Lonzo Ball – an injury that will keep the 2017
"You're asking to play out of position, play more minutes than they play," Ball said while standing in a walking boat on Saturday. "We've Never Had a Full Team for the Whole Year."
Shortly after Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka put together the roster, Walton and the coaching staff looked at the hands of their multiple playmakers.
"We almost wanted to play," Walton said. "… [And] the vision was offensively a team that ran a lot of pistols and dribble drags and delays so we can get the ball moving side to side, built around the idea that we have guys that are used to having the ball in their hands.
"We either take turns iso-ing every time or we get to where we move the ball and they naturally get the ball moving and going through them occasionally in the flow of the open. That's the original plan. "
With Ball and James on the sideline and Rondo just returning, Walton barely has had a good week to do so throbbing with tendinitis.
Walton is running a diet version of his playbook and relying on some guys, when the roster is full, filling the end of his bench.
"With who we have due to our injuries, it's They are basic NBA sets, but we need that structure. Rondo [just returned and] "When LeBron comes back, we are not just going to run 'floppy side' with LeBron. So it will start to change again. "
As James nears his return, the Lakers feel the increasing pressure to keep pace in the Western Conference.
" At times I think we can get frustrated, "Ingram said Monday of some of the Lakers toughies this season. But I think lately we've just been playing loose. "
" I think we just put too much pressure on ourselves sometimes, "Ingram added. "When we make shots, we're playing the right way, and we're playing defense, we're just a little bit …" pressure. '
"Whatever the reason, that pressure just wants to rise, with the Lakers quickly approaching the Feb. 7 trade deadline and trying to make their first postseason since 2013."
"It's a living organism, "Walton said with a hint of exasperation of the Lakers' season. "It's always moving and you're adapting to what's going on."