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

Brandon Ingram Impacts Entire Game Versus Cavs

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

For the third time this season, Brandon Ingram rose to the occasion for a big game.

All three of his highest scoring outputs have been against marquee opponents: Golden State, Philadelphia and, most recently, Cleveland.

Thursday night’s battle with the Cavaliers might have been Ingram’s most impressive display yet in terms of mixing scoring and playmaking, as he racked up 26 points (10-of-15), six assists and six rebounds.

The Lakers got Ingram rolling early on by giving him the ball mid-stride, increasing the velocity of his rim attacks with this running start.

They fed him two handoffs, making his trademark slashing all the more effective with so much momentum behind him. L.A. also put him in position to make high-speed cuts off the ball, most notably on a pretty transition give-and-go with Brook Lopez.

While driving to the rack has been Ingram’s moneymaker all season, he and coach Luke Walton recently spoke about the necessity of developing counters, particularly for teams that can protect the rim like New York, which held him to 2-of-12 shooting the game before.

His most important counter at this stage in his career is his pull-up jumper, which Walton said he works on every day.

On the (slowed down) play below, Cleveland’s Jae Crowder tries to deny Ingram from going to the middle of the court with his positioning on Lopez’s screen.

Ingram gladly accepts his path to the left and snakes around to the middle of the floor anyway. Kevin Love and Jose Calderon both have good contests his pull-up, but he sinks it anyway with his high release point.

That 7-foot-3 wingspan of his is what makes his jumper so dangerous. If he can sink that shot consistently, it’s going to be tough to alter even when the defense does a good job of challenging it.

Said Walton: “When you're able to attack downhill and stop on a dime at his height, and raise up and shoot that, it puts the defense on its heels and makes it really challenging to stop.”

Of course, Ingram’s length also comes into play in many other areas of the game.

Most notably, he uses it to stride to the hoop and finish at crazy angles with his long arms. But he’s also making progress with it defensively.

Here, he sneaks in and pokes the ball away for a fast-break that leads to a Lopez dunk.

And here is a ridiculous use of his wingspan against the greatest player in the world.

Ingram goes under the screen and is in the paint when LeBron James pulls up for a 3-pointer. The 20-year-old nonetheless is able to contest the shot and leaks out for an absurd outlet pass, as Lonzo Ball launches the 90-foot assist on a dime.

Ingram was the Lakers’ best defensive option against LeBron, who shot just 1-of-5 when guarded by L.A.’s 2016 second-overall draft pick.

LeBron was still clearly the best player on the floor, stitching together a 25-point, 12-assist, 12-rebound triple-double, but it was encouraging for the Lakers to see Ingram able to bother him with his length.

Speaking of length, he uses it in the (sped up) play below to get way up for a grown-man rebound. Then (as he has the green light to do) Ingram immediately pushes the ball up the court himself.

This catches the defense off balance and starts a chain reaction that leads to Julius Randle’s put-back score. Ingram doesn’t get credit for the assist, but it’s a textbook display of his improved playmaking.

Ingram has lately done a much better job of using his own scoring threat to set up chances for others. It’s no wonder he went from one five-assist performance in his first 16 games to seven in his last 11.

The sophomore impressed with his entire game in L.A.’s loss to the Cavs. He attacked the rim with ferocity, shooting 6-of-7 on such attempts. He had his best 3-point shooting game of the year by hitting 3-of-4 from deep.

His development has been eye-opening thus far, and the Lakers will look for more such performances by Ingram as they continue into their toughest stretch of the season.

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