first_imgIt’s not that the Lakers are perfect with Ball, but he has at least been in the game for all 15 of their wins.Naturally, the focus on Ball’s absence is his offense. But his 7.1 assists per game tends to be offset by the fact that, on average, he misses seven of the 11 shots he attempts per game.The Lakers’ offense is more or less the same with or without Ball. When he is on the court, the Lakers average 100.9 points per 100 possessions. Without him, they average 101.5 points.It’s on defense, as strange as that might sound, that his absence is really felt, with the Lakers allowing 6.2 more points per game when Ball is off the court. Going by straight points per game, a less reliable stat but one whose results are no less damning, the Lakers allow 107.8 points per game with Ball, and 124.1 without him.With Ball on the floor, Lakers opponents shoot 44.6 percent from the field. Without him, that number swellls to 51.9 percent.Before the loss in Oklahoma City, Walton ticked off the things Ball brings to the court for the Lakers’ defense, starting with his lanky 6-foot-6 frame, his ability to switch on screens and his preternatural ability to anticipate passes.Passing, after all, is the part of the game Ball knows best.Meanwhile, Ball leads the Lakers in defensive rebounds, averaging 5.8 per game.“We finish off possessions a lot of times with either him coming back in and tipping the ball to someone or grabbing the rebound himself,” Walton said.Ball has missed two straight games with a sore left knee, and he is unlikely to be on the floor when the Lakers host Indiana on Friday.“He says it feels better but he’s still limping around,” Walton said following the team’s shootaround on Wednesday. Hours later, prior to tip-off, he added Ball “doesn’t look like he’s ready to start playing.”That leaves Walton to promote the holistic, team approach of everyone summoning the mindset of making the extra pass without Ball there to set the example.“It’s going to take everybody with that type of mindset,” he said, “but still willing to be aggressive at the same time.”After coming up empty for an eighth time on Wednesday, Walton and the Lakers can only hope for better against the Pacers.“We’re capable of winning without him,” Walton vowed.His other players still have to prove it. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers“I think it’s much harder to win without Lonzo, but it’s not impossible,” Walton said. “There’s games that we could have won (that) he hadn’t played in. We just didn’t finish them out.”The Lakers’ eight losses without Ball have been by an average of 17 points. With the exception of a double-overtime thriller in Houston on New Year’s Eve, the Lakers have not really been close in any of their games without the No. 2 draft choice.Thursday’s 114-90 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was just the latest case of the Lakers missing Ball. Tyler Ennis started in place of Ball, tallying nine points points, three rebounds and three assists.While the Lakers have tried to compensate for Ball’s absence by stepping up their collective efforts at facilitating as a team, it’s clear they can’t collectively compensate for his unique skill.“We just got somebody that can facilitate,” Kyle Kuzma said. “That’s what he does, that’s what he wants to do. (We’ve) got a lot of guys that really score it, and to have him on the floor to do that and push the pace is also good.” OKLAHOMA CITY — The Lakers are at their most consistent without Lonzo Ball.Eight games, eight losses.So, can it really be that simple? That despite all of the distractions that come with the 20-year-old point guard’s family, despite his screwy and often ineffectual jump shot, the Lakers need Ball to win?Or is it just a cause of correlation vs. causation?center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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