Lonzo Ball called for unity after the Los Angeles Lakers suffered an ugly defeat to the city rival Clippers, losing a second straight game without the injured LeBron James.
The Lakers (20-16), who were also without Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee, led by 10 in the third quarter but saw that lead evaporate in a 118-107 defeat that resulted in boos from frustrated home fans.
That collapse included a run of 22 unanswered points for the Clippers (21-14), matching the longest in the NBA this season, despite the presence of James, Rondo and McGee on the sidelines.
“They were trying to talk to us in the best way they could, but it’s not the same as them being out there,” Ball, who had 19 points, told reporters of the vocal veterans.
“Guys were getting frustrated,” Ball said. “Anytime a team goes on a 22-0 run, it’s not going to be all fine and dandy.
“We have got to regroup. We can’t argue with each other. We’re on the same team. So, we just got to step up and accept the roles that we’re coming into right now.”
The Lakers have lost five of their last seven games, the same run they had to start the season, which led to pressure on coach Luke Walton.
“We went on a win streak last time,” Ball said. “We’ve got to go on another one this time.”
— NBA (@NBA) December 29, 2018
Walton acknowledged his team’s harmony needed work, saying: “I felt like we kind of started to splinter a little bit while it [the 22-0 run] was happening.
“That can’t happen. We can lose games, but we’ll lose them together. When we win them, we’ll win them together. No matter what’s happening on the court, we have to stay together and keep working and figure it out.
“I know we can get through it. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I believe in the guys that we have. We’ve just got to do a couple of things a little bit better.
“We’re playing five 20-year-olds. Being a vet in this league, this being a man’s league, you see young guys [and] you go after them physically. We talked about it after the game. That’s going to happen. It’s going to happen again each and every night we step out, until we’re ready to fight back.”
Kyle Kuzma, who echoed Ball and Walton’s demand for togetherness, led the Lakers with 24 points, but it was the Clippers’ Lou Williams who made the difference with 36 off the bench.
Kyle Kuzma discusses how the team can rebound from Friday night’s performance. pic.twitter.com/0XdhBeHnYj
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 29, 2018