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Lance Stephenson says Lakers rode Luke Walton’s ‘anger’ to first win

Lance Stephenson, Luke Walton, Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers finally got the monkey off their back by getting their first win of the season against the Phoenix Suns on the road. Swingman Lance Stephenson noted the team rode coach Luke Walton’s earlier anger into a double-digit win.

“We could feel his anger,” Lance Stephenson told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin of Walton’s disposition during the morning meeting at the team hotel. “We had to get that W.”

Walton was coming off a $15,000 fine for criticizing the officials after a 143-142 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs, where his team got the short end of the whistle despite scoring 74 points in the paint.

The third-year coach felt his team wasn’t getting the respect they deserved from the referees due to their youth and inexperience, things he made clear during his postgame rant to the press.

Furthermore, Walton was irate at the Lakers’ porous defense.

“We talked a lot on defense,” said Stephenson, who gave the Lakers a spark with eight points and 4-for-4 shooting from the field in the second quarter. “We watched a lot of film yesterday and today, and Coach was very mad at us, and he got on us about our defense and talking on D on the defensive end, and being very unselfish. So, I mean, we took care of business tonight.”

Asked how irate Walton was at the morning meeting at the team hotel, Stephenson replied, “Oh, he was mad.

“He came in today very mad. He yelled at us. He told us we’ve got to lock in on defense and play unselfish basketball and get a W.”

Stephenson had his best outing of his young Lakers career, pouring in 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field, adding eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals in 25 minutes of play.

“It feels great; it’s a win, period,” said Lakers star LeBron James, who was able to rest in the fourth quarter after the Lakers led by as much as 27. “But it feels good for us to know what we’ve been doing over training camp [and] in these first few games to continue to get better.

“We’re very talented offensively, but I think it’s always going to start with our defense.”

The Lakers had shown a poor defense, ranked 26th in efficiency before taking on the Suns and coasting to a 131-113 win.