By:Tania Gangul * Contact Reporter
The morning after the worst loss of the season, the Lakers threw it out.
They didn’t come in and watch film from the night before. They didn’t talk about it again. They moved on to Thursday’s practice.
“It was a palate cleanser,” Larry Nance Jr. said. “That’s hopefully what it was for this team. We got in and revisited what we’re great at. So hopefully we can use that going forward and that’ll be us from now on.”
The Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 133-96 on Wednesday. It was the first time this season the Lakers have suffered a loss by 30 or more points. When the Lakers went down by 30, that was the first time since the season opener that they trailed by 30 at any point in a game. (They went on to lose their season opener to the Clippers by 16 points.)
“I felt like we came out the way we have been playing all year, which is competitive, in the fight, and taking it to them,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Then, it felt like we gave in, or we felt sorry for ourselves a little bit, which isn’t who we are as a group.”
The Lakers opened the game on a 10-0 run, but the game really began to unravel after halftime.
“I think we tied them first quarter, and then [Russell] Westbrook had the double crossover and had the nice finish at the rim,” Nance said. “I remember kind of looking up at the score at that point and going, ‘Whoa. Where did that come from?’ They’re up 15. It just kind of came out of nowhere. We had a couple turnovers, didn’t get stops. A team like that you can’t give any leeway because they’ve got firepower everywhere.”
Nance said he felt frustrated, disappointed and embarrassed after the game. He said it took him until Thursday morning’s practice to stop being angry. He insisted the Lakers would never lose to a team by 30 or 40 points if they were focused and gave effort in the game.
“That may have been a culmination of a bunch of different things,” Nance said. “I can’t pinpoint it, but we knocked that off today. We knocked that loss off today. Had a heck of a competitive practice, played great. I think this next game we’re going to come out ready to go.”
Lonzo Ball returns to practice, hopes to play Friday
Asked who set the tone, Nance said the players did. The coaches didn’t lecture them.
“Some days you don’t need talk,” Walton said. “You just need to compete. … Today was more of a let’s get on the court and compete and put action to it.”
Lonzo Ball returned to practice Thursday, participating fully for the first time since sustaining a sprain to his left shoulder on Dec. 23.
“A little sore right now, but … I was happy to be out there and finish that whole thing without coming out,” Ball said.
Ball will be listed as questionable, but said he hopes to play Friday when the Charlotte Hornets visit the Lakers. He added that he did not expect to be 100% healthy for that game. Right now, he said, contact still bothers him but he wants to play through it.
The Lakers have lost every game Ball has missed and they are on an eight-game losing streak, which matches their longest of last season. Walton said Ball’s absence had a lot to do with the Lakers losing.
“He is a guy that, like we said all along, he makes his teammates better,” Walton said. “That is why our organization is so high on him. From the center position to the shooting guard position, everyone plays better when he is out there.
Five takeaways from the Lakers’ 133-96 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder
“And one of the surprising strengths that Lonzo has had for us this year is his defense as well. His size, his length, his anticipation, he gets deflections for us. So we have missed him a lot but we still should have been doing a better job even without him on the floor.”
In his absence, Ball has had time to watch his teammates more closely.
“Our defense keeps slipping,” Ball said. “Still missing free throws, still got turnovers, and the thing that really hurt us is our pace, our pace is slowing down, so really got to turn those things around.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.
Update: The Hornets have only 14 wins, but they have won three of their last five games, including one over the Golden State Warriors. Walton was asked Thursday about the opportunity before the Lakers to grab a win with teams that have bad records coming to town. He said without properly respecting those teams, the Lakers would not be able to secure wins.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli