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Lonzo Ball helping key Lakers’ surprising defensive resurgence

By in Press Enterprise on November 1, 2017

By Bill Oram

LOS ANGELES — With a knack for passing that already exceeds that of many of his veteran counterparts and a love for step-back 3s, Lonzo Ball has drawn attention mainly for his offense.

However, Coach Luke Walton has gone out of his way to praise the rookie point guard defensively.

“I think a lot of young guys that are drafted as high as him aren’t really concerned with that end of the floor,” Walton said. “And whether it’s jumping into the ball handler or trying to fight over screens … all the little things that come from playing on that end of the court, with effort, he’s doing really well.”

While the Lakers rank 29th out of 30 teams in offensive efficiency, it is their defense that has surprisingly carried much of the load early in the season. Entering Tuesday’s game, the Lakers were 11th in defensive efficiency, allowing 100.9 points per 100 possessions.

While those numbers are unlikely to hold – the Lakers were the league’s worst defensive team in 2016-17 – Walton indicated Ball deserves much of the credit for the team’s ability to force turnovers.

“He’s got great anticipation and great hands as a player already so he’s able to get a lot of loose balls for us,” Walton said, “or come down and strip offensive rebounds that guys don’t really see him hanging around, which gets us extra possessions obviously.”

In his first six games, Ball averaged 1.3 steals per game.

One area where Ball’s aggressiveness has perhaps hurt the Lakers’ defense is on the offensive glass. Ball acknowledged last week that his eagerness to snare offensive rebounds hurts the Lakers in defensive transition.

The Lakers’ rule is that everyone gets back on defense, but it’s hard not to make exceptions when Ball has so much success on the boards.

“If he goes and gets […]    

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