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Luke Walton’s in-game rotations are hurting the Lakers

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The Los Angeles Lakers had a chance to beat the Toronto Raptors but Head Coach Luke Walton’s questionable fourth-quarter rotations hurt them.

The Lakers are a young team that will have some growing pains but the coaching staff is just as young and experiencing some growing pains as well.

In L.A.’s Friday matchup against the Raptors the Lakers were up by as many as 17 points but lost the game 101-92.

Most of L.A.’s lead dwindled before halftime as they started the second half only up by six points. But well into the fourth quarter the Lakers, equipped with a bench lineup of Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, were up on Toronto by just three but with momentum on their side.

Luke Walton then swapped his subs for his starters and the team went on a scoring drought of over four minutes.

Finally, once L.A.’s three-point lead had turned into an eight-point deficit, Walton benched all of his starters and put his second unit back in. The subs were able to break the Lakers scoring drought but time ran out and they weren’t able to retake the lead.

Even with L.A.’s reserves playing so well, putting in your starting lineup to close a game is understandable–standard even. Walton simply waited too long to pull the plug on his starting five.

It was clear once the starters lost the lead they weren’t the group to finish the game but Walton stayed with them nonetheless to the Lakers’ demise.

This wasn’t the first instance Walton’s rotations may have cost the Lakers a game.

When L.A. faced the New Orleans Pelicans they got down big early but they slowly chipped away at the Pelicans and went on a 27-4 run to take a five-point lead. The main players responsible for this burst was again the Lakers’ bench.

Late in the fourth Walton subbed in Lonzo Ball for Hart, who played well during L.A.’s run, and the magic had died. New Orleans went on an 11-0 run in response and beat the Lakers 119-112.

There are always better choices that could have been made in hindsight but in the moment you have to play or coach on the fly. Although it makes sense to want your starters to close games or to develop your rookie point guard in crunch time, staying with what works is also important; that’s how you win games.

Somehow L.A. has played well enough that they could potentially be 4-1 right now.

Of course there’s no guarantee Walton’s more productive lineups would have sealed the deal in said games, but they definitely would have had a good shot.

If Walton learns from his mistakes the Lakers have a chance at a respectable season, and they may attract some big name free agents they so desperately need.

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