Lakers news: Luke Walton reacts to Mo Wagner's breakout game in first start
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Lakers’ Luke Walton reacts to Mo Wagner’s breakout game in first start

Luke Walton, Mo Wagner, Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t have Kyle Kuzma on Saturday night against the Boston Celtics. They didn’t have Brandon Ingram or Lonzo Ball. Laker coach Luke Walton had to find minutes on his bench. He turned to Mo Wagner, who made his first NBA start near the end of his rookie season.

The Lakers might have lost to the Celtics, 120-107, but Wagner won some respect in the locker room and a measure of encouragement from his coach.

Wagner played more minutes (34) than any other Laker on Saturday. He made those minutes count, scoring 22 points with six rebounds, three assists, and a blocked shot. He finished with a plus-3 differential. Only a fellow named LeBron James — you might have heard of him — scored more points for the Lakers (30) than Wagner.

Luke Walton loved what he saw:

With the Lakers shutting down Ingram and Ball for the rest of the season; Kuzma unavailable; and LeBron going on a minutes restriction, the organization has essentially downshifted into maintenance mode, conceding what is unavoidable at this point: The Lakers will not play in the playoffs. Buried in the standings and lacking sufficient manpower, the remaining weeks of the season will be devoted to giving the young pups their minutes and teaching them how to play.

Mo Wagner is one of those players. He stepped into the ABC prime-time spotlight against the Boston Celtics and didn’t look out of place. No one should expect Wagner to continue to be as efficient as he was against the Celtics — 7 of 13 from the field, 7 of 7 at the foul line — but the fact that Wagner could play this well in a nationally televised game against a marquee opponent certainly represents a positive first step.

Mo Wagner will get Mo minutes, and we’ll see if that means Mo improvement for the Lakers’ bench next season. Stay tuned.