They call him “Slenderman.”
With a 7-foot-3 wingspan and leg length to match, Brandon Ingram absolutely enveloped Sacramento’s Cameron Reynolds with the game on the line.
Up by one with 41 seconds remaining, Ingram faced Reynolds as the guard attempted to inbound the ball to a teammate.
Reynolds passed the ball, but Ingram reached down low and got a hand on it. Reynolds tried again, but this time it bounced off a jumping Ingram’s foot. Another try, another ball kicked out of bounds.
With the STAPLES Center crowd hollering and the Lakers’ bench (spurred on by Rajon Rondo) in hysterics, Reynolds tried one more time. But Ingram — covering Reynolds like a mirror — managed to hit the ball with his hand, keep it in bounds and stride down the court, where he was sent to the free throw line.
“I was just trying to use my length to my advantage and try to shadow the basketball,” Ingram said.
In addition to his goalie impression, Ingram was phenomenal throughout, piling up 31 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block to lead the Lakers’ 125-123 victory.
“He was great all game, not just in the second half,” LeBron James said. “His pace, his ability to play the point, play the wing. He’s just a very special talent and we’re definitely happy to have him on our side.”
With Rajon Rondo given the night off and Lonzo Ball recovering from knee surgery, Ingram was tabbed to start at point guard — a position that he thrived in last season.
The 21-year-old was once again a menace with the ball in his hands. He punished the Kings off the dribble, with half of his 10 buckets coming on drives, plus a couple of mid-range pull-ups.
“He’s growing more and more every day,” James said. “I know what I see in him, and he’s looking for his opportunity to make the next jump in his third year. There’s a lot of upside in that kid, and I’m happy to try to give him as much as I can.”
James did just that. Not only did LeBron provide 18 points and four assists in only 15 minutes, he also seized the focus of the Kings’ defenders, allowing Ingram more opportunities to attack.
He takes so much [defensive] attention,” Ingram said of James. “I’ve been way more efficient with scoring. And then it gives me more energy on the defensive end — just to guard my guy, get in the passing lane and try to start our offense on the defensive end.”
Ingram surpassed the 30-point mark in efficient fashion, shooting 10-of-15 from the field and 11-of-15 at the foul line. He was also clutch, scoring 12 points in the game’s final eight minutes.
But for coach Luke Walton, Ingram’s four stops on Reynolds were the biggest sign of his potential.
“We need him to be engaged defensively like that the whole time,” Walton said. “At the end there, he got three deflections [and a steal] in a row out of bounds using his length. He can do that all the time and be disruptive like that.”
And while LeBron and Luke may foresee greatness in Ingram’s future, the third-year pro holds an even greater internal prediction.
“My expectation is way higher than anyone’s expectation,” Ingram said, “in this room or anybody.”
After the game, assistant coach Miles Simon was wheeled out of the locker room on a stretcher, sitting upright and conscious. Further details were not immediately available. … The Lakers held their first-ever Pride Night, and Jason Collins — the first openly gay player in NBA history — received the “Laces of Unity Award.” … Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma both scored 17 points. … Michael Beasley left the game early with a rib contusion. … Second-overall pick Marvin Bagley III led Sacramento with 19 points and 10 rebounds.