Lakers Make it Seven Straight at Home Behind Ingram, Randle
Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma dropped a couple of hammer dunks. Julius Randle was a hammer in the post. And the Lakers’ second-half defense nailed the coffin on their opponents.
Los Angeles continued its blistering run and now has the NBA’s second-best record over the last 15 games after dispatching Phoenix, 112-93.
Randle set the tone early, scoring eight points in the opening four minutes by steamrolling Dragan Bender with his post-up attempts.
Randle — who had a similarly bullish game against Carmelo Anthony on Sunday — powered his way to 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while sprinkling in some playmaking out of the post with five assists.
“You go against Carmelo Anthony (and) it’s easy obviously to get him ready for that, (because) he’s one of the all-time great players,” coach Luke Walton said. “Nothing against Bender, but I was interested if Julius was going to bring that same intensity level.
“And you could see it in his eyes when the game was starting: He was ready to go again.”
Julius Randle: Dragan Slayer— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) February 7, 2018
Randle has straight up bullied Dragan Bender for 4 buckets in the opening minutes. pic.twitter.com/16ivc8Je5w
Ingram then picked up the scoring mantle in the second half, hitting all five of his shots in the third quarter, including a vicious throwdown.
Ingram took advantage of an isolation opportunity against Josh Jackson (often hailed as the top defender of the rookie class) by backing up before using his long strides to find a springboard to the rim.
Marquese Chriss tried to contest at the last second, but Ingram already had far too much momentum and attacked the rack.
The play served as a microcosm for Ingram’s game, as he thrived in isolation and post-up opportunities, shooting 9-of-12 on his way to 26 points. As the team’s point forward, he also spread around five assists.
“My vision for him is every time he has the ball, he’s putting pressure on the other team’s defense,” Walton said.
Minutes after Ingram’s jam, Kuzma felt the need to catch some air himself.
After getting out in transition, Kuzma — who had 16 points — caught a pass mid-sprint and made 5-foot-9 Tyler Ulis look silly for even thinking about blocking the ensuing tomahawk.
But according to Kuzma, what tipped the game wasn’t a pair of nasty dunks. Instead, it was altering to a switch-heavy defense in the second half.
Taking advantage of their players’ athleticism and positional flexibility, the Lakers (22-31) were able to hold their visitors to only 14 points in the fourth quarter.
The Suns (18-37) shot just 5-of-22 in that final frame.
“We switched pick-and-rolls, pin-downs,” Kuzma said. “We were just playing really position-less basketball and taking them out of a lot of things that were hurting us in the first half.”
It was exactly what L.A. needed to come out on top in a battle between teams missing their young stars, as Lonzo Ball and Devin Booker both sat due to injury.
The Lakers’ supporting cast proved superior in the end. Josh Hart dominated the glass yet again with a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double (his third straight), while Brook Lopez sunk four 3-pointers.
The combination was the right recipe for the Lakers’ seventh straight win at home.
“We make an emphasis of trying to protect our house,” Ingram said. “… Our only focus right now is the defensive end.”
The Lakers had significant advantages in points in the paint (52-38) and fast-break points (25-11). … L.A. has won 11 of its last 15 games. … Phoenix was led by T.J. Warren (24 points), but shot just 38.3 perfect from the field as a team. … A sold-out crowd of 18,997 packed Staples Center.