Brandon Ingram vs. Orlando
Brandon Ingram drives against the Orlando Magic on Nov. 17, 2018.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

Defensive Breakdowns Cause End of Lakers' Win Streak

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

After ripping off four straight wins behind a newly-stout defense, the Lakers’ streak ended with an Orlando Magic parade to the basket.

The Lakers played well enough offensively, but couldn’t match that effort on the other side, trailing by as many as 21 points in a 130-117 loss.

“After the first quarter, we were bad defensively,” said LeBron James, who led L.A. with 22 points and seven assists in 26 minutes. “A lot of breakdowns — uncharacteristic of us of late.”

Indeed, the Lakers (8-7) got off to a nice start, leading by six after the opening quarter. But Orlando (8-8) poured it on in the middle periods, outscoring the Lakers by 25 in the second and third.

Coach Luke Walton posited a theory that the loss of Rajon Rondo — out for 4-5 weeks due to a broken hand — led to the Lakers struggling in unfamiliar bench units.

“I thought we came out ready to play tonight. I really liked our first quarter: our intensity, our focus,” coach Luke Walton said. “Then for some reason — I don’t know why yet — our defense felt like it just failed us.

“We’ve been getting a lot better defensively, and we played a good first quarter defensively. Maybe [it was] the different rotations [and] we just weren’t comfortable with the new guys. I don’t know what the reason was, but we never really recovered from that.”

It was, in fact, a disappointing defensive showing for a team that had made much progress on that side of the ball.

The Lakers opened the season just 2-5, allowing opponents to average 122.3 points on 49.3 percent shooting from the field. Over the next seven games — including six wins — they yielded just 109.0 points on a 46.8 percent clip. But those initial defensive struggles arose against the Magic.

Nikola Vucevic notched his second-straight 30-point game by dropping 36 on the Lakers plus 13 rebounds. Vucevic — who is capable of scoring from all three levels — punished each coverage the Lakers threw at him with a blend of post-ups, rim-rolls and jump shots.

“When we weren’t able to get our stops, we tried going small and switching, and he punished us inside,” Walton said. “When we had our bigs out there and were playing our traditional defense, he’s popping and hitting 3s. He’s a tough matchup, and we didn’t do a good enough job of doing our part for sure.”

One reason for Vucevic’s success was Orlando’s dribble penetration, led by D.J. Augustin, who had 22 points and seven assists. Augustin and his fellow ball handlers regularly slashed past L.A.’s perimeter defenders, resulting in buckets for themselves or assists to bigs.

“As our defense got worse, our point-of-attack defense really suffered,” Walton said. “They were living in our paint.”

Orlando hung up 62 points in the paint, while shooting 53.8 percent across the floor. The Magic defended their home court for the 10th time in the Lakers’ last 11 visits.

B.I. at PG
With Rondo sidelined, Brandon Ingram served as the second-unit point guard and had a nice offensive night, scoring 17 points with a season-high seven assists and six rebounds.

Ingram found his own offense in the post and worked well out of pick-and-rolls, regularly finding open looks for shooters spotting up. However, he and the rest of the Lakers found difficulty keeping the Magic off the scoreboard as well.

Lance Stephenson scored 19 points. … It was a tough offensive night for Lonzo Ball (scoreless) and Kyle Kuzma (five turnovers), who combined to shoot 3-of-15 from the field. … Moe Wagner, who was drafted 25th overall by the Lakers, made his NBA debut, playing the game’s final two minutes. … Michael Beasley played after missing the last nine games, primarily due to personal reasons.

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