Facing the world’s top player and his fellow defending champions, rookie Brandon Ingram put together his most complete game yet, leading the Lakers to within range of victory.
Starting at point guard, the 19-year-old small forward finished the night with nine points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, coming just shy of becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double in Los Angeles’ 119-108 loss to LeBron James and co.
“That’s the best and most confident he’s looked all season,” head coach Luke Walton said. “When he was playing point today, he was kind of controlling and commanding the offense and getting people into position. … He was great on the glass tonight. He really helped out against a great rebounding team.”
Ingram was vocal while filling in for usual point guard D’Angelo Russell (rest), as Walton said that it was the first time that he could hear the second-overall pick calling out plays from the coach’s spot on the bench.
Ingram definitely could have gotten the triple-double, as he shot 4-of-10 from the field and had some opportunities for the final assist missed by Nick Young (who did more than enough with a season-high 32 points) in the final minutes.
But Young jokingly deflected responsibility to Timofey Mozgov, who missed a dunk on a dish from Ingram earlier in the night.
“I’m gonna blame Mozzy for him not having his triple-double,” Young said, smiling.
On the serious side, Ingram displayed confidence against the champion Cavaliers, setting new career-highs in both rebounds and assists.
At 19 years and 106 days, Ingram still has time to unseat LeBron himself as the youngest player to reach a triple-double given that the reigning NBA Finals MVP set the mark in 2005 when he was 20 years and 20 days old.
But Ingram is more focused on day-to-day progression than record-setting accomplishments.
“My job is just to continue to get better,” he said. “Continue to be an asset for this team and affect the game on the offensive and defensive ends.”
A Swaggy Kind of Night
While Ingram gave the Lakers a sample platter of production, Young gave a heaping helping of buckets.
It was a spectacular game from a player whose future with the team was uncertain during the offseason, as he not only scored 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting, but hit a career-high eight 3-pointers along the way.
“It’s a blessing to be back here and have a coach that believes in you and talks highly about you,” Young said of Walton. “It makes you want to go out there and do everything you can for him.”
From the very start, Young and co. would not blink against the NBA’s title-holders.
The Lakers (11-19) shot 12-of-22 in the first quarter to race out to a 31-26 lead before Cleveland found its bearings.
From the end of the first through the beginning of the second, the Cavs (19-6) scored 15 unanswered points to take a 38-31 lead. However — though Kyrie Irving scored a dozen points in the second period and Kevin Love matched that in the third — the Lakers wouldn’t give in.
Cleveland never led by more than 12, as the Lakers used an 11-5 run — capped by two Young 3-pointers — to trim the champs’ lead down to 108-105 with four minutes left.
But from there, James became a one-man demolition crew.
The Cavs scored nine consecutive points — including six from LeBron — to put the game out of reach.
James scored 16 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter alone, while tallying nine assists and seven rebounds on the night. The other members of Cleveland’s Big Three also shined, as Love led with 27 points and 17 rebounds, while Irving contributed 21 points and a career-high 12 assists.
“They just find a way to win,” Ingram said. “They’re a championship-caliber team. It’s the little things for us (like) giving up an offensive rebound at the end of the game.”
In spite of the loss, the Lakers looked completely different from the team that had dropped eight straight games before finally winning at Philadelphia on Friday.
With Ingram and Julius Randle (16 points, seven assists) leading the way, L.A. handed out 30 assists — its second-most of the season. However, the Cavaliers matched that total and shot 51.7 percent from the field.
Both teams were blistering from deep, combining for 31 3-pointers, but Cleveland also left a mark down low, outscoring the Lakers in the paint, 50-30.
“They shot the ball extremely well,” LeBron said. “They’ve got a lot of talent over there and Luke has got them playing the right way.”
Before the game, Mozgov (two points, four rebounds) accepted his championship ring for winning the title with the Cavs last year. … Larry Nance Jr.’s father, Larry Sr., attended L.A.’s game against his former team. … Luol Deng had 15 points, eight rebounds and three 3-pointers. … A sold-out crowd of 20,562 packed into Quicken Loans Arena.