Friday's performance marked an improvement for Lonzo Ball, who had six points on 3-of-7 shooting with six assists, six rebounds and five steals in the Los Angeles Lakers' 122-113 loss against the Phoenix Suns.
After Ball shot 1-of-9 with two points against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, Lakers head coach Luke Walton was forced to answer questions about keeping his rookie point guard in the starting lineup.
"He's our starting point guard," Walton told reporters. "There're no talks as of now of moving Lonzo to the bench."
Though he missed both of his free throws and his only attempt from beyond the arc, he posted his fourth-best field-goal percentage in a game at 42.9 percent on Friday.
It's difficult to overstate how bad Ball has been as a shooter through his first 15 games, with SportsCenter providing the evidence:
Lonzo Ball is off to a historically slow shooting start. https://t.co/dg2y0Ctvn32017-11-17 20:05:07
The upside for Ball, whose first field goal came with seven seconds left in the first half, and the Lakers is some of his other skills have translated to the NBA. Among point guards, he ranks third with 6.6 rebounds per game and seventh with 6.9 assists per game.
Ball, sporting a fresh haircut, was putting in work before tipoff against the Suns, via ESPN.com's Ohm Youngmisuk:
Ohm Youngmisuk @NotoriousOHM
Lonzo got a haircut and he’s getting 3’s up and in with Kanye blasting https://t.co/HUwm7PGP2Y2017-11-17 19:09:16
Yet the 20-year-old's solution to avoid another bad shooting performance seemingly was minimizing his attempts. His total of seven shots taken tied his third-fewest in a game this season and was his fewest since Nov. 2 against the Portland Trail Blazers when he went 0-of-2.
Other Los Angeles starters around Ball fared well. Kyle Kuzma looks like a budding star and added to his resume with 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers
#KuzControl in full effect as Kyle scores 14 points in the third quarter #LakeShow (📺: @SpectrumSN & @spectdeportes) https://t.co/ITaJi0N8RK2017-11-18 05:17:00
Brook Lopez had his second double-double in the last three games with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Ball helped him along the way with this alley-oop in the second quarter:
Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers
Lonzo throws up the oop for Brook Lopez! #LakeShow (📺: @SpectrumSN & @spectdeportes) https://t.co/KBCch6RxI92017-11-18 04:24:31
The Lakers let the Suns jump out to a 65-53 lead at halftime, so Ball's offensive showing was hardly the biggest problem for the team.
Devin Booker, in particular, was having his way against Los Angeles' defense. The third-year star scored 33 points, the third time in the past four games he's broken the 30-point barrier.
Phoenix Suns @Suns
Devin Booker ending the half only like Devin could. #SunsAtLakers https://t.co/inZg3dwaW32017-11-18 04:35:25
The Lakers looked like they had turned things around in the third quarter thanks to better effort on defense, per ESPN 710's Mike Trudell:
Mike Trudell @LakersReporter
Biggest difference this half: LAL have been playing much better defense. Have held PHX to 5 of 21 FG’s (24%).2017-11-18 05:01:20
After getting within two at 80-78, the Lakers allowed the Suns some breathing room by giving up six straight points.
Even though expectations were set high for the Lakers by LaVar Ball, this is still a young team learning to play together and build its skills in the NBA.
Ball's ceiling is as high as anyone's on Los Angeles' roster, but the transition has been difficult in some areas. This was a solid bounce-back performance after so much went wrong against the Sixers. Walton kept him in throughout the fourth quarter after he was benched during a Nov. 13 win against the Suns.
As long as Ball is able to keep taking incremental steps in his development throughout the season, the Lakers can feel confident that investing the No. 2 overall pick in him was worth it.