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Lakers coach Luke Walton on keeping team locked in final stretch

Luke Walton, Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers have leaped forward this season with the talented young squad showing a lot of promise for the future under head coach Luke Walton. Although Lakers fans have a lot to be excited about moving forward, the 2017-18 campaign is coming to an end without a trip to the postseason with the playoff drought continuing.

With the playoffs no longer a possibility for the Lakers, Walton has to find a way to keep his players motivated in the final stretch of the season which is no easy task for any NBA head coach. However, Walton knows it can be a challenge and will take a particular approach to the last eight games of the season.

“It gets more challenging this time of year, but we’re going to be on them,” Walton said. “If they want to take nights off, we’ll sit them on the bench, and they can take a night off on the sideline. We’re going to keep trying to play the way that we played for most of this year, whether that’s playing bench guys or starters. That’s going to be dependent on if guys are playing as hard.”

The Lakers are coming off 33rd win of the season as they were able to turn it on in the second half of Wednesday’s game against Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks to get the win at Staples Center.

Unlike in years past, this Lakers team has proven to be resilient and able to win on any given night regardless of their opponent. Players like Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram have taken the next step in their development while rookies Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball have shown they’re more than ready to embrace the spotlight in Los Angeles.

“Honestly, with our group, that’s not going to be a big issue,” Walton said about finishing the season strong. “Generally speaking, it gets harder this late in the season, but I think our group will continue to play hard and play the right way.”

The Lakers will play seven of their remaining eight games at the Staples Center. Kuzma and company will be the away team against the L.A. Clippers in their season finale while their one remaining game on the road will be against the Utah Jazz on April 3.

On Friday night, the Lakers will host Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks in Los Angeles in an effort to win two straight games before facing the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.