Brandon Ingram attempts a layup against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 14, 2017.
(Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Lakers Gritty in Hard-Fought Loss to LeBron's Cavs

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

A young Lakers team stared down the best player in the game, and they didn’t blink.

MVP frontrunner LeBron James displayed his usual excellence, leading Cleveland to a 121-112 victory with his fourth triple-double of the season. But a host of Lakers counterpunched all night long, keeping the Cavaliers within striking distance for most of the game.

“I thought it was awesome,” head coach Luke Walton said. “I thought the way our guys were competing tonight — it really just shows where we’re heading with this group. It sucks to lose, it hurts to lose. But I was excited. We left a lot of points on the table tonight.”

The leader of the charge was Brandon Ingram, who scored 26 points on a blistering 10-of-15 clip from the field, while mixing in some playmaking with six assists and only two turnovers.

Walton called Ingram’s performance “pretty dang special,” as the 20-year-old bounced back from a rough 2-of-12 night in his last outing against New York.

Ingram’s trademark driving was as impressive as it has been all season, as the Lakers constantly designed plays for him to receive the ball with a lot of momentum on handoffs and off-ball cuts.

He also mixed in some marksmanship by shooting 3-of-4 from 3-point range.

“It’s important for me not to think about the last game (and just) think about today,” Ingram said.

Meanwhile, Lonzo Ball had been waiting for this day for some time, as he played his first game against LeBron, his favorite player growing up.

Ball rose to the occasion by directing the Lakers’ offense with 13 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

Like Ingram, he had one of his best shooting performances, hitting three triples and a deep two-pointer. But his chief asset was his passing, as he whipped the ball all around the court, including on a 90-foot touchdown pass to B.I.

But while Lonzo also had a season-high six turnovers and rolled his ankle in the third quarter (though he returned), LeBron was nearly flawless in leading the Cavs (21-8) to their 16th win in 17 games.

The future Hall of Famer racked up 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, wowing Kyle Kuzma, who said that “it doesn’t really look like he’s playing that hard,” with the game coming so easily to him.

“Watching him doesn’t do it justice,” Ball said. “It was really hard to stop him at that size and that speed. Like I said, he’s the best player in the world right now and hard to deal with.”

The Lakers (10-17) were unable to stop LeBron, but they nearly had enough firepower to eclipse his team on the other end.

With Ingram and Kuzma doing the most damage, the Lakers scored a whopping 62 points in the paint. Meanwhile, Ball guided the team to 33 assists, while Larry Nance Jr. pulled down half of L.A.’s 16 offensive rebounds.

In addition to Ball’s near-triple-double, his fellow rookies also came ready for a battle with an elite team.

Kuzma scored 12 of his 20 points in a fourth quarter that saw the Lakers trim their deficit to four before LeBron took over.

Josh Hart got his first start in place of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (personal reasons), and provided 11 points, 10 rebounds and some strong defense.

“Our chemistry’s definitely showing now,” Ball said. “The fact that we have 27 games under our belt now, everybody’s feeling more comfortable.”

Were it not for some red-hoot shooting by the Cavs, they might have also gotten the win.

Cleveland hit 15 3-pointers, including five by one-time Laker Jose Calderon (season-high 17 points) and four by Kevin Love (28 points, 11 rebounds).

The Lakers, meanwhile, shot just 9-of-31 on triples and were outscored at the free throw line, 20-9.

Notes
LeBron tied Larry Bird for the sixth-most career triple-doubles in NBA history (58). … Ingram scored 12 points in the third quarter but went scoreless in the fourth. … Nance had six points and 12 rebounds. … A crowd of 20,562 sold out Quicken Loans Arena.

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