Sports

Luke Walton facing a critical LeBron James' challenge

Luke Walton facing a critical LeBron James' challenge

First, there was chatter from the Lakers brass that LeBron would play center in a small-ball lineup, despite LeBron's career-long hesitance and distaste for doing exactly that.

Teams generally score more efficiently when pushing the tempo, so LeBron calling the play on the fly rather than looking toward the bench means the Lakers can get into it more quickly.

The Lakers have struggled to shoot at times this season and a loss to the Nuggets was a glaring example of their problems.

Coach Luke Walton has had to lean more on James and Ingram to facilitate with Rondo recovering after surgery. Walton has adjusted, and now when James is running the show, Walton will typically just let him call the game. LeBron James was held to a season-low 14 points on the night and McGee didn't fare much better as he scored just 2 points in 16 minutes in the loss.

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Including the game against Portland that Rondo injured his hand on November 14, James was averaging 29.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.0 assists in the Lakers' previous seven games prior to Thursday's 104-96 win over Indiana.

IN trimmed Los Angeles' lead to 89-88 on Domantas Sabonis' jumper with 4:59 left, but James replied with a 3-pointer and a three-point play on consecutive possessions to start a 10-0 Lakers run.

Walton said that any team with a player of James's caliber will rely on that player at times.

Although the Lakers squandered an early 24-point lead - the Pacers taking a 69-66 lead in the third quarter - Walton said there were plenty of encouraging signs.