(J Alexander Diaz/Lakers.com)

32: How Brandon Ingram Slashed and Splashed His Way to a Career-High

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

The defending champions brought out the best in Brandon Ingram.

From Wednesday morning shootaround through the final buzzer of overtime, Ingram was completely locked in and “lost (himself) into the game.”

By the end of the night, the 20-year-old had racked up a career-high 32 points and led the Lakers in a back-and-forth battle with Golden State that ended in a last-second loss.

Ingram thrived with his trademark slashing, as he took advantage of the Warriors’ switching defense and scored over an array of defenders.

Ingram’s driving has gotten so good this season that he is 15th in the NBA in made layups despite defenses going “way under” on him in pick-and-rolls in attempt to wall him off from the hoop.

Because Ingram has shot just 33.8 percent on jumpers, defenses have given him space to shoot.

But he has been able get to the rim and finish anyway, as seen against the Warriors when Jordan Bell gives him room to pull up for 3, but Ingram strides past him to the rack and scores against Kevin Durant’s rim protection.

After drawing the switch on the above play, Ingram gives the ball up to Jordan Clarkson before immediately getting it back. This is something head coach Luke Walton wants to see more of, so Ingram can “attack off a live dribble.”

A minute later, Ingram does the same thing and Bell tries to react but can’t come up with the steal. He recovers well but is too off balance to stop Ingram from pulling up for a nice jumper at the foul line.

Unlike most players who use their shooting to open up driving lanes, Ingram does the exact opposite.

He knows that defenses will continue to sag off him to try to prevent his rack attacks, which will give him more space to shoot.

His jumper was consistent against the Warriors, hitting 5-of-10 from outside the paint, including a pair of corner 3-pointers.

Here, Draymond Green gives him too much space on an out-of-bounds play, and Ingram splashes from his high release point.

While Ingram’s perimeter game was consistent against the Warriors, his slashing is clearly his biggest weapon.

He shot 7-of-10 around the rim and also drew all seven of his free throws on layups.

This is hardly a new development, as Ingram has been one of the NBA's top slashers this season. Among players with 200 drives or more, only LeBron James (62.4) is shooting a better percentage than Ingram's 55.2 clip.

And it's not like he is doing it in a small sample size, as his 7.3 points off drives are 10th-most in the league..

One key development is his ability to drive left, which was noted by Golden State’s Andre Iguodala.

A two-time All-Defensive honoree, Iguodala approached Walton after the game.

According to the Lakers’ head coach, he said, “(Ingram) is able to get to that left hand and still create in the lane. Before we could force him that way and knew nothing good was gonna happen.”

Here, Ingram uses a Brook Lopez screen to switch his defender from the Defensive Player of the Year, Green, to slow-footed Zaza Pachulia. B.I. freezes him with a hesitation move and strides left for an uncontested dunk.

This was one of many examples of Ingram’s excellence at attacking the Warriors’ switch-reliant defense.

In fact, six of his 11 buckets came when another defender was switched onto him, with Pachulia and Bell as his most frequent targets.

Walton liked how Ingram collapsed the defense and kicked to open teammates on these switches, but more often than not it was Ingram attacking the lane — resulting in much success.

But Ingram’s victims included more than plodding big men. When it came to crunch time, he had to find ways to score against a pair of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders: Durant and Klay Thompson.

With a minute left in overtime, Thompson aggressively jumps out at Ingram, who hits a few crossovers before gliding past him and once again finishing against Durant at the hoop.

“I was just very aggressive going to the rim, and I didn’t think anyone could stop me going to the rim,” Ingram said at Thursday’s practice.

While Ingram’s 32 points were certainly the Lakers’ brightest spot of the night, Walton doesn’t want him to enter games solely looking to score.

“We don’t want him coming into a game with the mind set of: ‘All right, let me go get 30 again tonight,’” Walton said.

“You’ve got to continue to play the right way and play within the system that we’re trying to play.”

Ingram did just that on Wednesday, as he kept the ball moving offensively and competed on the other end, even when matched up against one of the greatest scorers in the world.

Ingram — who had three steals and eight (!) deflections — dueled Durant until the waning moments of overtime, when he poked the ball away and drew a foul on the fast-break.

The big-time moment gave the Lakers one last chance at victory and a nice conclusion to a career night from their 2016 second-overall pick.

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