Ball Nears Triple-Double, Focuses on Shot in Loss to Wizards

Joey Ramirez
Nov 9, 2017 10:52 PM ET

Lonzo Ball dribbles against the Washington Wizards on Nov. 9, 2017. (Credit: (Ned Dishman/Getty Images))
Ironically, the engine behind the Lakers’ offense can’t seem it ignite his own scoring. Lonzo Ball once again put forth a strong all-around effort, flirting with a triple-double on a 10-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist night. But his season field goal percentage continued to drop, as he shot just 3-of-12 in the Lakers’ 111-95 loss to Washington. Ball — who receives perhaps more media attention than any other athlete in the country — is now averaging a healthy line of 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists on the year. But head coach Luke Walton knows that his 29.2 field goal percentage and 22.0 3-point percentage are the numbers that many will associate with his rookie. “He’s 20 years old, almost had a triple-double tonight; but any time you turn on any sports show all they talk about is his shot,” Walton said. Having been in the national spotlight since his days at Chino Hills High, Ball said that he “lives in reality” when it comes to the media attention that follows him. He chooses to keep his focus inward. “I don’t care, to be honest,” Ball said. “I know I’ve got to just keep shooting and improve it every game.” Ball was excellent with his passing and rebounding against the Wizards (6-5). He worked the pick-and-roll well with Brook Lopez and Kyle Kuzma, while also getting the ball to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in transition. On one notable dime, he cleaned the defensive glass and did his patented mid-air head spin, locating KCP for the quick, full-court outlet pass.
“He’s already playing for the Lakers, so he’s got a lot more pressure on him than, I think, anyone has in a long time that’s come out from college,” Walton said. “Like I said, I’m thrilled he’s on our team, and he’s gonna start making those shots. It’s just a matter of time.” But that time did not come on Thursday, as the Lakers (5-7) fell to Eastern Conference contenders on back-to-back nights after flying in from Boston early that morning. Ball had a nice layup in the opening minute against Washington and a tapped in an offensive rebound shortly after — but he could not hit from the perimeter, shooting 1-of-7 on 3-pointers and missing his only mid-range look. Still, Walton was pleased with how active Ball affected the game without shots falling. “He makes our team so much better when he’s on the floor, even when that shot’s not going in,” Walton said. “The way he can push the ball, the way he can make plays on the defensive end, the way he comes in and rebounds from a guard position is incredible.” Yet Walton conceded that Ball — who also went 3-of-7 on free throws — is “100 percent” saddled with extra pressure due to the amount of media coverage he receives. It also doesn’t help that shooting is arguably the Lakers’ biggest need, as they hit just 35.6 percent from the field, while their league-low 3-point percentage dipped after a 3-of-23 night from downtown. Ball said that the Wizards guarded him the same way that they did during their loss to the Lakers two weeks ago, but that he was unable to find a rhythm. “He’s probably in his head a little bit when the crowd gets in his head a little bit,” Brandon Ingram said. Like Ball thus far, Ingram struggled with his jumper as a rookie, shooting 32.2 percent. That number is up to 37.8 this year, and he thinks the second-overall pick will expedite that process. “I didn’t feel good about my shot at all, but I think it’ll come quicker for him,” Ingram said. “He’s in a real good position at the point guard position where we can help him out a little.” Ball’s teammates, including Ingram, maintained that the best way for him to find his shot is to continue letting it fly. While the exercise of shooting out of a slump could discourage some, Walton said that isn’t necessarily the case for Ball. Toward this, he cited the mentality of his former teammate, Kobe Bryant. “I’ve seen him miss 14 straight and get pissed off that we didn’t get him the ball back on that 15th play,” Walton said. “So some people never lose confidence.” Seven Lakers scored in double figures, including Jordan Clarkson (15 points) and Julius Randle (11 points, nine rebounds). … The Wizards were led by John Wall (23 points), Bradley Beal (22 points) and Otto Porter Jr. (20 points, 11 rebounds). … The Lakers had 17 offensive rebounds but 19 turnovers.

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