(J Alexander Diaz/Lakers.com)
4 Constant Factors in the Lakers' 4-Game Win Streak
The Lakers have been playing their best ball of the season, winning 12 of their last 16 games, eight straight at home and four in a row overall.
In each stop of this latest surge, there have been four constants that have propelled the Lakers to victory. Let’s take a look at those factors.
B.I. getting the point
The Lakers’ streak coincided with Brandon Ingram taking over as starting point guard. With Lonzo Ball (sore left knee) injured since mid-January, the Lakers struggled to find consistent playmaking from the point guard position.
Enter Ingram, who shifted over from small forward and found immediate success. The 20-year-old has led the Lakers’ offense to the tune of 19.3 points, 6.5 assists and only 2.0 turnovers since taking over at point. He has been especially effective at pushing the pace (replicating Ball’s impact on the offense) and finding open teammates on drive-and-kicks.
1A) Brandon Ingram has thrived since taking over at the point, averaging 6.5 assists and only 2.0 turnovers.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) February 10, 2018
Ingram's pace-pushing has been essential to maintaining the team's high-speed identity, and his vision in the half court continues to improve. pic.twitter.com/RLYloDqsdT
Just as impressive, Ingram’s own offense has surged despite having to set up the rest of his teammates as well. He has shot 56.0 percent from the field, including a whopping 18-of-22 on layups — as his herky-jerky slashing and ability to finish at odd angles has been on full display.
Ironically, his usually reliable mid-range game has sunk during this span (2-of-12), but he has shot the 3-ball with much more confidence (6-of-10).
1B) Despite having to set the table for others, Ingram's own scoring has surged as the primary ball handler.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) February 10, 2018
He's putting up 19.3 points, has been extremely effective with his herky-jerky slashing (18/22 on layups) and is in a 3-point groove (6/10). pic.twitter.com/eM7ObL4rSt
Julius Randle flexing on everybody
Lakers assistant coach Jesse Mermuys — who works closely with Julius Randle — recently referred to the Lakers’ young big as a “genetic giant.”
Opposing front court players have seen (and felt) this for themselves over the last four games, as Randle has left bodies in his wake, overpowering defenders to score at the rim.
Randle has averaged 19.0 points and 8.0 rebounds, while shooting 55.0 percent. His post-up game has been especially effective, as DeMarre Carroll, Carmelo Anthony, Dragan Bender and Patrick Patterson have all failed to stop Randle’s bully-ball act.
It has been an area of extreme improvement for Randle, who is in the NBA’s 65th percentile in post-up efficiency (0.94 points per play). Last season, he was in the 15th percentile (0.69), and the year before he was just 19th (0.66).
This season — and especially over the last four games — Randle has used his superior strength to overwhelm smaller defenders and his unique speed to take slower ones off the dribble.
It’s no wonder why President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson recently said, “I love the way Julius is playing right now. This is the best I’ve ever seen him play.”
2) Julius Randle has overpowered every matchup during the Lakers' win streak.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) February 10, 2018
He has put up 19.0 points (primarily by bulldozing opponents in the post), prompting Magic Johnson to say, "This is the best I've ever seen him play." pic.twitter.com/IBaOlCDVVr
Josh Barkley on the boards
Bestowed a Charles Barkley-inspired nickname by his teammates, Josh Hart has been a force on the boards since joining the starting five.
The Lakers have gone 4-0 after Hart became a starter, while he has gobbled up 11.0 rebounds per contest. And these haven’t been your “casually grab an uncontested missed free throw” type of rebounds.
Hart has been saving possessions with his offensive boards, and (more importantly) he’s made opponents pay for not hurrying back on defense by pulling down missed shots and immediately attacking in transition.
While Hart’s presence has been felt most on the glass, the rookie really is playing like a vet with the entirety of his game. During the streak, he’s putting up 13.5 points, 3.0 assists and 2.5 3-pointers, while shooting a robust 63.3 percent from the field and 10-of-18 on triples.
3) Josh "Barkley" Hart has been vacuuming the glass, hauling in 11.0 rebounds a night.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) February 10, 2018
These have been high-impact boards, as he has constantly put pressure on unsettled defensive by ripping down the rebound and immediately attacking on the break. pic.twitter.com/HTM4h6jaXN
Defense on the rise
The trio of Ingram, Randle and Hart has powered the Lakers’ offense, but an across-the-roster effort on the defensive side has been just as important to the team’s recent success.
Over the last four games, they have suffocated their opponents, yielding the second-fewest points (94.3), second-worst field goal percentage (40.8) and third-worst 3-point percentage (27.4).
Part of this stems from shorthanded opponents — including Phoenix without Devin Booker and Oklahoma City sans Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony — but the Lakers have done their part, including against a full-strength OKC team just two days before the rematch.
Hart has been excellent on the wing, hounding high-scoring wings like Paul George and T.J. Warren (who finished with high scoring totals but had to put up a lot of shots to get there). Randle and Brook Lopez have also been reliable protecting the paint from slashers and big men.
Over the last 16 games, the Lakers own the second-best record in the NBA. Continuing their defensive prowess will be the key to finding similar success over the final 28 contests of the year.
4) The Lakers' defense has locked in, holding opponents to the 2nd-fewest points (94.3) and 2nd-worst field goal percentage (40.8). pic.twitter.com/ykULOxhU94— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) February 10, 2018