LOS ANGELES — In a night dominated by Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid‘s career night in a 115-109 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, rookie point guard Lonzo Ball‘s struggles on the court once again were an underlying storyline.
The 20-year-old had entered the night with one of the worst field goal percentages for qualified players statistically in the league. These issues reared their head on Wednesday night as Ball was a complete nonfactor offensively scoring just two points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc with five rebounds, two assists, and a steal in 21 minutes played.
Ball couldn’t find the mark from any spot on the floor with his only make in the game being a tough layup in traffic midway through the second quarter. His struggles came to a head in the second half as he missed all four shots he took including three 3-pointers that saw him play just eight minutes and sit on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.
Following the game, head coach Luke Walton sounded a little disappointed that Ball didn’t attempt to get involved more in the other aspects of his skill set to have a greater impact on the game.
“I thought tonight would have been a great opportunity for him to have ones of those games where ‘okay, my shot’s not going, let me get in there and get some rebounds, and some steals,'” Walton said. “I think because his shot was off it affected his game a little bit. but we need him to do everything. What we know he is going to become requires a lot of work and a lot of growth. He will get there and there are going to be ups and downs on that path.”
It hasn’t just been Wednesday night where Ball has struggled as he has had plenty of issues with his shot throughout the season as he hitting just 30.3 percent of shots from the field and a worse 23.0 percent from beyond the arc in 15 games played. With that in mind, Ball acknowledged that it did affect him against the 76ers but at the same time stated he won’t let his continued problems offensively affect his mentality moving forward.
“Usually I won’t let it affect me, but tonight I did,” Ball said. “Missing layups, just a bad night.”
Throughout this process, the Lakers have remained high on the second overall pick in this year’s draft and he has continued to garner support from his teammates that include fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma, who scored a career-high 24 points on Wednesday night.
“It’s tough,” Kuzma said. “The NBA is not easy. The media and everyone else give him a lot of flack, but he’s still a rookie. 20 years old. The NBA is not easy for anybody. Not every rookie comes out of the gate storming. He’ll be fine. He’s a great player and he has confidence. He’ll be alright.”
Ball and the Lakers will have a chance to rebound on Friday night against the Phoenix Suns, who they have topped in the first two meetings this season.