MINNEAPOLIS – Presenting his fourth question on the fourth crucial quarter of the 119-112 loss against the New York Knicks, Brandon Ingram briefly reiterated the narrative on Friday evening.
He knew that the media were interested in the final period, in which the Lakers (21-18) had been selected for 33-20. But he also felt that there were other things to choose from.
"I do not think the whole thing is the fourth quarter," he said. "I think sometimes he's on the defensive side where we have a loss of concentration, sometimes a loss of concentration for myself, sometimes free throwing, sometimes it's different, so I will not mention it in the fourth quarter."
To some extent, Ingram had a point: The Lakers had 17 balls lost and allowed 41 high season free throws. For the first time in 13 games, they broke 75% on the free throw line, but wanted to do more. These problems were not limited to any period of Friday's loss.
Yet the numbers – and the beat that the Lakers have taken in the fourth quarter of the last five games without LeBron James – deserve special attention.
Given that the team has gone from 1 to 4 in this section, the Lakers are last in the NBA classification in the fourth quarter. In other words: for 100 possessions, the Lakers are outscored of 24.6 points in the final period. They have an average of five points less in the fourth quarter (23.0) than any other quarter in that stretch from five games.
The extreme nature of how the Lakers can not work offensively in the fourth quarter indicates how much of a critical point it has become without LeBron James. Luke Walton thought that the movement of the ball was interrupted and time was slowing down in that period – both critical errors that cost even more to the Lakers without James, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma.
"The shots will not always go in. Even if you're a great shooting team, you'll have free nights," Walton said. "But we can control certain things that we did not do a good job tonight and we did not take a big chance to win the stretch."
There were notable errors by the two dominant players of the ball left. For one, Lonzo Ball had two lost balls in the final minute, including a rare five-second violation in a time out game. Walton later took the mistake, saying that the game had to be done faster and would do a better job of communicating the game to his staff.
Ingram also lost his last three shots of the game, calling his number on several possessions and missing the disputed units until the edge. Walton did not rule him out for the loss, but admitted that Ingram did not play as much in the fourth as in other parts of the game.
It did not help the Lakers to give up 20 free throws in the last quarter and the Knicks made it 16. This made it difficult to manage the transitional crime in which the team thrives. But the Lakers also got rid of another strong offensive attack they had in the third quarter, when JaVale McGee and Ivica Zubac were a mixed 8 out of 9 from the field with 16 points.
McGee made only two more shots for the rest of the game, and neither Tyson Chandler nor Zubac made fourth-quarter shots. McGee said he would be "selfish" for him to say that he thought he needed the ball more, but he also seemed frustrated that the Lakers had moved away from what had helped them get back down in 17 in the first half.
"I think we were not consistent about what was working," he said. "It's not necessarily me and Zu, there were a lot of things that worked, and Zu and I only had a couple of hot spots out there where we had some scoring strips, but a lot of things that we could do. run, but we did not do it. "
The answers are not easy to find with many key veterans on the shelf, but the Lakers know they have to answer: losing one of the few weak teams in the upcoming program does not help to stay afloat in the Western Conference rankings, where they are now a precarious eighth place .
"Every game is great in the West," said Ball. "Also, we continue to lose the same way, in my opinion, we get up in the fourth and continue to give it away, so we have to change it."
Kyle Kuzma during the trip
There was good news on Saturday morning for a Lakers team that was attacking: Kyle Kuzma was authorized to travel to Minneapolis for the return trip. It will be debatable for Sunday afternoon's inclination with Minnesota.
Kuzma has disappeared since leaving the second quarter loss on Wednesday at Oklahoma City Thunder with back pain. An MRI confirmed that he had a bruise, but Walton said that Kuzma was still too stiff to play on Friday, and he stayed home to recover.
The Lakers are already without James on the road as he continues to recover from a tight crotch. The hope is that the Lakers can bring back Kuzma, the team's second best scorer (18.3 ppg), which would also add a dimension to a formation that lacks depth forward. In the absence of Kuzma, Josh Hart 6-foot-5 took on more of the responsibilities of power forward.