Lakers News: LeBron James, Luke Walton Talk LA's Young Core, Size

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2018

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06:  Kyle Kuzma #0 and Josh Hart #5 of the Los Angeles Lakers on the court during the game against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on February 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Outside of LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers are focused on developing their young core, so it's no surprise they are optimistic about them learning through their growing pains.

The Lakers, 3-5 on the season, found a way to fight a late flurry from the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night and held on to win 114-113, when James sealed the game by hitting one of two free throws after getting fouled by Wesley Matthews.

"Listen, I'm extremely happy we're going through it," James told DJ Siddiqi of CBS Sports. "You can talk about it, you can preach about it, you can watch film about it, but the best teacher in life is experience. And it's great these young guys are getting experience of playing these tight, close games, and then tonight we was on the other side of it."

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

🎥 LeBron James assesses the positives and negatives from a last-second win over Dallas. https://t.co/w0dtHqfAEK

L.A.'s clutch win was significant because it was the first time this season that they have been able to win a close game after falling to the San Antonio Spurs and the Minnesota Timberwolves by just four points.

The game shouldn't have been that close.

Powered by James, who finished with 29 points, six assists and three steals, the Lakers were up 13 points with just over three minutes left to play before the Mavs came roaring back to tie it with seven seconds left.

"I know we ended up almost giving it away, which is a great lesson for us to learn,'' head coach Luke Walton said. "NBA games are never over, and you have to play the game a certain way. If you mess with the game, the game will mess with you. You have to be able to rely on defense to win a game. That's why we're going to keep working on it and keep preaching it until we get to that level that we can do it."

Kyle Kuzma played well, scoring 11 of his 18 points in the first quarter to help his team take an early 29-12 lead.

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Great pass by LeBron to find a cutting Lonzo under the rim #LakeShow (📺: @SpectrumSN) https://t.co/AMfkhGdxcL

Lonzo Ball had a great game too, finishing with 12 points and seven assists.

The challenge is for Kuzma, Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart to play with intensity throughout the game, especially down the stretch.

"You could tell the energy that we came out with versus how we finished," Ball told Joey Ramirez of the team's official site. "It was completely different. We got a little complacent up double digits with five minutes to go. Then we got lax."


Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart Key to Lakers Success

SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 12: Josh Hart #3, Lonzo Ball #2, Kyle Kuzma #0 and Brandon Ingram #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on from the bench during a pre-season game against the Golden State Warriors on October 12, 2018 at the SAP Center in San Jose, Cal
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The NBA draft is basically a roll of the dice, especially when it comes to the picks outside of the lottery.

The Los Angeles Lakers got top marks for using their 2017 No. 2 pick in on Ball, but it was their shrewd ability to spot talent that landed them great players like Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart with the 27th and 30th picks, respectively.

"We targeted Kuz and Hart early in the draft process, so it was exciting to be able to get the guys we wanted that late," Lakers assistant GM/director of scouting Jesse Buss told Mike Trudell of the team's official site. "We are pleased with how they've performed and are excited to see their progression going forward."

Kuzma has been dynamic as a starter, averaging 21.3 points per contest, while shooting 50.5 percent from the floor. He's also doing his part on the boards, pulling down 5.5 rebounds per outing.

Joey Ramirez @JoeyARamirez

Kyle Kuzma (11 pts, 4/4 FG) with the first-quarter hot hand. Like having him handle off a pair of screens, especially with DeAndre dropping back to protect the rim. https://t.co/xNxecisI3Q

He hasn't been as effective off the bench, though, averaging just 13 points a game.

Hart started, while Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram were suspended for fighting, but he's done well whether he's with the first unit or the second.

He's averaging 11.9 points on 44.9 percent shooting and hitting on 40.5 percent from behind the arc.

Kuzma and Hart both were instrumental in the Lakers 114-113 win over the Dallas Mavericks, helping the team reach an offensive rating of 112.7 while posting a defensive rating of 93.1.

"They were really good [against Dallas]," Walton said. He continued:

"They were locked in, they were getting stops, they were getting out and running, they were moving the ball. Again, this is the second game in a row that we have had a lot of assists in the first half then stalled out in the second. That will come with trust and getting to know each other more. I thought they did a really nice job of [playing] with that unit on the court."


For the Lakers, Size Matters

San Antonio, TX - OCTOBER 27: JaVale McGee #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers plays defense against the San Antonio Spurs on October 27, 2018 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or
Mark Sobhani/Getty Images

The NBA is about all small ball.

But the Los Angeles Lakers are looking to capitalize on their size.

For their Halloween night game against the Dallas Mavericks, they elected to start 7-footer JaVale McGee at center, 6'9" Kyle Kuzma and 6'8" LeBron James at the power and small forward position and 6'9" Brandon Ingram and 6'6" Lonzo Ball in the backcourt.

It was the second straight game that Walton elected to go with this lineup to start the game.

"We have great length," James told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. "We have great rebounders. We have unselfish players. Our whole team is unselfish, so I don't want to say it like that. But we have great length, and we figure out a way just to kind of complement each other out on the floor."

Ingram, who has started as a forward in the past, was inserted as a shooting guard over Kentavious Caldwell-Pope after returning from a four-game suspension for his involvement in the fight against Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul.

"I got the suspension, and we had guys fill in that was doing really, really good, and Kuzma was doing really, really good in his role and coach decided to stick with him," Ingram said. "So I just tried to come in—it's kind of like position-less basketball. I think I'm actually at the two [shooting guard], but I just try to come in and try to play wherever the coach wants me."


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