Lakers Fall to Boston
Before the 2018-19 season began, the March 9 tilt between L.A. and Boston had top billing, as confirmed by the game’s presence as the premium ABC game on Saturday night.
But that was before a variety of factors, with INJURIES in all caps leading the way, essentially ended the Lakers playoff hopes in advance of Kyrie Irving leading the green Celtics jerseys into Staples Center.
Boston emerged with a 120-107 victory in a game in which three of L.A.’s top four players – Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball – didn’t play. Their best player, LeBron James, went off for a 30-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound triple-double despite being limited to 28 minutes as the team looks to limit his wear and tear at least a little bit with only 16 games left in the season.
"We never like to lose, but I was pleased with the effort of our guys gave," said coach Luke Walton.
One thing all of these injuries did allow for: Moe Wagner’s first start as Laker. The No. 25 overall pick out of Michigan via Germany took full advantage of the opportunity, scoring a career-high 22 points on an efficient 7 of 13 field goals, plus 7 of 7 free throws, along with six boards, three assists and one block and all kinds of hustle.
"I thought Moe was good," said Walton. "He was probably a little overly excited (early), but as he got into the groove of the game and he just started making the reads and making plays, it was a good night for him and a great learning experience and something to build on."
Moe Wagner had himself a career night, dropping 22 points and 6 rebounds in 34 minutes. pic.twitter.com/yHTn5lRmd7— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 10, 2019
Two-way G-League players from the South Bay Lakers Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams also saw significant run for the second straight game, and each had bright moments. Williams went for 10 of his 18 points in the first half, while Caruso helped key a second half comeback attempt, after he and Williams replaced Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and JaVale McGee just two minutes into the third. They flanked LeBron to trim the margin down to five late in the period.
Boston was hot from the perimeter all night despite competitive defense from the Lakers, hitting 14 triples and scoring all their points with only 42 in the paint and 10 at the free throw line.
"Our defense was solid tonight," said Walton. "Unfortunately they made contested threes and contested twos."
The new plan for LeBron’s workload was discussed by Luke Walton after Friday afternoon’s practice. He also shared the unlikelihood of Ball’s return to the court this season due to the Grade 3 ankle sprain he suffered in January, though there was a more positive update on Lonzo after the game:
From Lonzo Ball’s re-evaluation by the team medical staff: he continues to make good progress in recovery from the bone bruise related to his sprained ankle, and has been cleared for non-contact basketball activities. He’ll be re-evaluated in 2 weeks.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 10, 2019
That was before we learned that Ingram would miss the remainder of the season due to a Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) in his arm that was discovered by the team’s medical staff on Friday. Ingram had missed the previous two games with a sore right shoulder before undergoing further testing.
Ingram had been playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 27.8 points on 57.0 percent field goals and 52.9 percent from three, plus 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in six games after the All-Star break.
Meanwhile, Kuzma rolled his ankle at the end of Monday’s loss to the Clippers and forced him out of Thursday’s game against Denver, and while he was hoping to play on Saturday, the ankle wasn’t quite ready.
And don’t forget about Josh Hart’s battle with knee tendinitis. Though he’s been playing through it, Hart’s challenge can be reflected in his shooting percentage – especially from three. Hart shot 40.5 percent from three in October, 37.5 percent in November and 38.4 percent in December. Then he started to feel pain in his knee especially when loading up, and shot 22.7 percent in January and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts in limited February minutes.
Though the sample size is small, Hart has converted 7 of 15 triples in March (46.7 percent) after hitting 2 of 3 against Boston before missing his final three in the fourth quarter, as he looks to make an adjustment to play through the discomfort.
The Lakers now take off on a 5-game road trip through Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, New York and Milwaukee.