MINNEAPOLIS -- After falling 124-120 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday to close out a road trip 0-2, Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton admitted that his team's early-season doldrums are taking a toll.
"There's obviously frustration that comes with it," Walton said after the Lakers failed to protect a fourth-quarter lead and dropped to 2-5 on the season. "I don't know what the level [of frustration] is, but it's going to be a tough flight home.
"But like I told our guys, nobody feels sorry for us. It's up to us to figure it out and start winning some of these close games. And we will. I can promise you that. We will start to win some of these. But right now we're taking a couple lumps in the meantime."
L.A. is 0-3 in games decided by five or fewer points after going 11-11 in such contests last season before landing the biggest prize of the NBA offseason in LeBron James. On Monday, the four-time MVP led the Lakers in points (29), rebounds (10) and assists (7) but also had a team-high five turnovers, including one with 1 minute, 43 seconds remaining, when he lost control of his dribble and L.A. was called for a backcourt violation.
James echoed Walton's disappointment.
"Well, we got to get better," he said. "We know that. We talk about patience, but we can't have [a] reoccurrence of the same thing. ... Doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting a different result, you know, that's insanity. So we have to get better. We can't just have the same mistakes over and over again."
Against the Wolves, those mistakes came in the form of fouling (the Lakers were whistled for 24 fouls to Minnesota's 14, leading to a 30-15 disparity in free throws attempted) and in failing to crash the glass (L.A. allowed 20 offensive rebounds and was out-boarded 51-48 overall).
"I mean, it's the same story," Walton said. "We got to get better at the little things, and one of those things is paying attention to details, following game plans. The game plan tonight: keep them off the free throw line and defensive rebounding. And they hurt us with both of those."
The Lakers also had 18 turnovers, which led to 17 points for the Wolves, something Rajon Rondo attributed to his team overthinking things.
"We're just not making the right plays at the right time," said Rondo, as his team was outscored 21-15 in fast-break points partially because of its poor decision-making when it had numbers. "I think we're trying to hit home runs when we just need to make singles."
L.A. also trotted out its fourth starting lineup in seven games, leading to rotations that didn't always flow smoothly.
"Whatever role or whatever guys come in, we just have to be ready to go," Rondo said. "As a team, collectively, we're not doing things, we're not on the same page. We're messing up pick-and-roll coverage. We're messing up boxout assignments. So we got to do the intangibles and come in with a better mindset."
Rondo had 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting and eight assists backing up Lonzo Ball, who struggled for the second straight game with just four points on 2-for-6 shooting and one assist. L.A. was outscored by 11 points with Ball on the court Monday and has now been outscored by 44 points with Ball on the court this season, the worst plus-minus of any Lakers player, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
"I'm just not doing my job," Ball said.
Part of James' job with this young group is to lead by example as players try to find their footing. He walked out of the locker room holding a copy of the book "Leadership: In Turbulent Times" by Doris Kearns Goodwin, the same book Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was reading during training camp.
Before that, James was asked what his leadership looks like when his patience wanes.
"You probably don't want to be around when my patience runs out," James said. "I'm serious."