LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers' hiring of coach Luke Walton in the summer of 2016 maintained the organization's family-first approach. But in addition to bringing home a native son, the Lakers also were getting some of that Golden State Warriors special sauce, principles that when implemented could modernize the Lakers.
On Wednesday night, the realities of exporting a championship system without the requisite championship personnel were made evident in Los Angeles' hard-fought 127-123 loss to the Warriors. The Lakers -- particularly Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball -- displayed flashes of promise, but were swamped in overtime by two of the game's finest players, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
This was hardly a vintage exhibition of Warriors basketball by a starting core that was fully intact for the first time in a week. Transition opportunities and secondary breaks didn't exhibit the typical flow and flourishes. Curry struggled from the field for much of the night, even launching an air ball on a 3-point attempt in a tie game with just over a minute remaining in regulation. In overtime, he came alive. Curry drained a pair of 3-pointers in the first minute to give the Warriors a six-point lead they'd never relinquish. He finished the night with 28 points -- including 13 in overtime -- on 9-for-20 shooting from the field.
The Warriors are prone to carelessness when uninspired, and they threw the ball around the court an unhealthy amount, racking up 22 total turnovers, including six during a stretch of just over three minutes in the third quarter. These weren't the ambitious brand of pass-happy, everyone-touch-the-ball turnovers; they were a series of lazy, we-can-do-this-with-our-eyes-closed miscues by a team so assured of its ultimate successes, it doesn't feel like it has to bother with the smaller ones. And sure enough, like the brainiac who can futz around ahead of an exam and still ace the test, the "real" Warriors arrived at Staples Center at the beginning of overtime to snatch the win.
For the Lakers, the loss was an appropriate microcosm of their season. The competitive young squad overperformed, defended reasonably well for most of the game, and never found their offensive rhythm in a system they've barely scratched the surface of. More times than not in the half court, the Lakers would initiate a possession within motion, only to break off deep in the shot clock for a conventional iso opportunity.
Ingram presents a challenge for a team that wants to build a motion offense predicated on open spacing, quick reads and constant movement. He's by and large an isolation player who prefers straight-line drives -- often off a screen -- and midrange jumpers. For the Lakers on Wednesday, that diet was plenty nourishing. Ingram scored the team's first nine points and finished with a career-high 32 on 12-for-21 shooting from the floor in a dominant performance that highlighted his arsenal of one-on-one skills. Julius Randle, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jordan Clarkson each pitched in 20 or more points.
Ball assembled one of his most prolific scoring stretches of the season in the middle of the third quarter. Over the course of three possessions, he drained consecutive 3-pointers, then drove to the rack for a layup for eight points in 70 seconds. His reward? A nasty cut above his eye on the ensuing possession while diving for a loose ball. He ended the night with 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting, along with 10 assists.
The Warriors and Lakers each have a mental exercise this season. The Warriors must avert complaceny, while the Lakers must find a way to compete with teams with far greater experience and talent. Though the Warriors won Wednesday night's matchup, the Lakers confronted their challenge with greater focus.