Josh Hart attempts a layup against the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 2, 2018.
(Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Hart, Ingram Give Boost to Starting Lineup

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

With the offense in a rut, coach Luke Walton made two key changes to the starting lineup.

He eschewed a traditional point guard by removing Tyler Ennis and having Brandon Ingram handle primary playmaking duties. He also inserted Josh Hart among the starters.

The results were a fast-paced attack, a huge advantage on the boards and a Lakers win.

Ingram was the focal point of the offense, putting up 16 points, a career-high 10 assists and eight rebounds with only two turnovers.

Walton simplified the playbook for Ingram, who kept his promise to push the pace at every chance.

“We talked to him this morning about the idea of starting him at the point, but we needed him to tell us he wanted that challenge,” Walton said. “And we needed to know that he’d push the pace for us. He said he was up for both.”

Ingram was at full throttle as the driver of the Lakers’ offense. He even pushed the pace on a couple of possessions after Brooklyn baskets, making for pseudo fast-breaks.

This next one catches the Nets even more off guard, as Larry Nance Jr. has 10 feet of space to shoot. Nance is reluctant from 3-point range (only four attempts all year), but that kind of room is too tasty to pass on.

Also note how Ingram immediately rushes to set a screen after flipping the ball to Nance. That’s the kind of activity the Lakers love seeing from their players.

Ingram has started at point guard before, but never to this amount of success. Walton considered it a result of him not pigeonholing himself into doing an impression of a typical point guard.

“Last time he was trying to be more of a traditional point guard and call plays,” Walton said. “Tonight it was more: ‘Just give me the ball, I’m gonna fly up the court and let’s play basketball.’”

Ingram also thrived by playing off his own strengths. He had three dimes come of drive-and-kicks in the half-court, and his most impressive pass of the night was a similar one that didn’t result in an assist.

Here, he gets his defender to bite on a pump fake and drives to the hoop. Aware of Ingram’s trademark slashing, three Nets collapse onto him, leaving Hart wide open on the wing.

Ingram delivers a wicked hook pass, and Hart has enough space between him and the closest defender to put in a hot tub. He just isn’t able to cash the quality look.

Hart may not have made that wide-open triple, but the Lakers wouldn’t have won without him absolutely dominating the boards.

The rookie finished the night with 15 points and a season-best 14 rebounds, as the Lakers finished with 16 more boards than their hosts.

“I was channeling my inner Charles Barkley — undersized guy,” Hart joked.

Hart has already proven himself a formidable rebounder at his position, with three games of 10-plus boards.

He was at it again versus the Nets, saving possessions with three offensive rebounds, like this one where he sneaks past his distracted defender and hops up on the glass.

Then there’s this one, where Hart tracks down the long rebound and instinctively delivers a bounce pass to a cutting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, resulting in free throws.

But his best work came on the defensive glass, where he constantly grabbed rebounds and immediately rushed down the court.

Hart’s commitment to pushing the pace was a vital reason the Lakers got the win.

On this last play, he uses his hops to snatch the ball away from Brooklyn’s Allen Crabbe and instantly charges the other way.

The Nets are caught off guard and foul Hart at the basket, resulting in key fourth-quarter free throws in a close win for Los Angeles.

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