Bresnahan: Ball and Ingram Step Up
The words resonated with Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, two players still trying to figure out their place in the NBA universe.
Few would argue with Coach Luke Walton when he noted publicly that the two young Lakers lacked the proper passion in a blowout loss Sunday in Minnesota. He added fairly strong words such as fire and fight, the lack of either painfully obvious that night from the former No. 2 picks.
Ball was scoreless against the Timberwolves, missing all four of his shots in a regression game. Ingram completed a string of three inefficient outings, failing to hit 39% shooting in any of them while trying to assume the Lakers' lead role without an injured LeBron James.
What could Ball and Ingram do after Walton prodded them while talking to reporters? They talked to each other on the phone later that night. Part of the discussion centered on coming out strong to start Monday's game in Dallas.
So they did.
Ball rediscovered his aggressiveness with six shots in the first quarter against the Mavericks. He was efficient throughout the night, making four of eight from three-point range.
“If we don't come out ready to play, the whole team's going to feed off that,” he said after scoring 21 points in the Lakers' 107-97 victory over the Mavericks.
For Ingram, it was more important to close with a flurry. He'd actually been hurting the Lakers down the stretch in recent games.
He didn't play in the fourth quarter of the lopsided loss to Minnesota but in two games prior to that, his fourth-quarter numbers were uninspiring: two for 12 shooting and one lonely assist in almost 20 minutes. He'd been attacking the basket with reckless abandon, an admirable quality unless defenses were closing in on your drives (and neglecting the passing lanes) because they know you're going to A) shoot or B) shoot.
Fast forward to Monday with fewer than three minutes left against Dallas. Ingram drove the lane and passed the ball to JaVale McGee for an easy dunk.
This was new because he'd been so reluctant recently to involve teammates.
Then he did it again a minute later: Drove the lane, dropped off a pass to McGee, easy dunk for the veteran center.
Assists aside, Ingram finished with a season-high 29 points as the Lakers easily erased a 15-point halftime deficit. Nobody was more satisfied than Ingram and Ball.
They took the time to hammer out a plan on the phone. Then they executed it. A good night for both of them. A good night for the Lakers.
“It's why I put so much responsibility on them,” Walton said. “I believe that they're capable of doing it.”
Friday will be the most important day this week for the Lakers. It has little to do with a road game at Utah.
It's when the Lakers are expected to give an injury update on James.
He's missed seven games because of a strained left groin, the Lakers stumbling to a 2-5 mark without him.
Granted, they've also missed Rajon Rondo, out at least another two weeks because of a torn hand ligament, and Kyle Kuzma, who returned Monday after missing two games because of a bruised back.
They showed life against Dallas but have lacked constant ball movement without James and someone to officially call their closer. He is, after all, LeBron James.
A road win in Utah would be nothing to complain about. A positive report on James would make Friday even better for the Lakers.