ONTARIO — From the first day of training camp, Luke Walton has been nonstop about installing the importance of defensive effort into his players.
So, after hemorrhaging points in a 122-104 preseason loss to Denver, Walton was upset with how his players didn’t seem to give their best attempt at stopping the Nuggets.
In fact, he said the team might as well throw away the tape from the first half, which saw the Nuggets rack up 74 points.
“I said (at halftime), ‘We can’t make any adjustments because the effort’s not there,’” Walton said. “So it’s not like we’re seeing what they’re doing to our coverages. They’re out there running 5-on-0 offense.”
With Lonzo Ball (ankle sprain) and Brandon Ingram (head contusion) sidelined, Walton thought that the remaining members of the team would come out with more fire.
He did concede that the players could have been fatigued from nine straight days of practicing or playing, but maintained that his team isn’t as tired as it will be during certain regular-season stretches.
“Our guys have given phenomenal effort this entire camp, so it was disappointing to see that happen tonight,” Walton said.
The good news is that Ball and Ingram’s length should help defensively when they return. The better news is that rim-protecting centers Brook Lopez and Andrew Bogut should be available for Sunday’s exhibition in Las Vegas.
In the meantime, the Lakers can at least point to another fiery performance from Kyle Kuzma, who led the team in scoring for the third time in as many games.
Kuzma put up 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting, once again displaying a variety of scoring techniques.
Highlights included leaking out in transition, showing his footwork on a turnaround jumper and driving baseline for a reverse slam.
With the regular season two weeks away, the 27th-overall pick is focused on continuing to only take good looks. He has nailed this goal so far, shooting a burning 25-of-38 from the field this preseason.
“I’m trying to have my shot selection be pretty solid,” Kuzma said. “If I can do that, I think it can carry over. If I’m taking bad shots, it’s going to be tough for me.”
Tyler Ennis, Luol Deng and Thomas Bryant started for the first time this preseason. … Josh Hart made his preseason debut and scored nine points in the fourth quarter. … Julius Randle had a strong third period that included two dunks, two blocks and a 3-pointer.