It took a little longer than they would have liked, but the Los Angeles Lakers finally look like a playoff team.
Over the last 10 games, the Lakers are 8-2 with the league’s ninth-ranked offense and 11th-ranked defense. Not all the wins have been pretty, and the two-way play isn’t always as good as advertised, but they’re the best iteration of themselves they’ve been all season.
Basically, the Lakers are exactly where they’re supposed to be. While it might not have always felt like it, they were always going to be in the conversation for a playoff spot with LeBron James on the roster.
In order for them to be more than just a playoff team, the Lakers need their young players to come into their own this season, especially former No. 2 overall picks Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.
Ball and Ingram have struggled to make an impact on a consistent basis this season, but they’ve also had nights where they look like they’re on the cusp of piecing it all together like Friday against the Utah Jazz.
Ingram tied his season-high for points with 24 on an efficient 8-14 shooting, while Ball had the highest box plus-minus on the team for the second game in a row. In an otherwise lifeless game, Ball and Ingram looked as aggressive as they’ve looked all season.
Following the game, James said the Lakers need that aggression from their rising stars regularly.
“In order for us to be the best team we can be, they always have to be aggressive, and they did that again tonight,” James said.
Arguably no one on the roster has struggled more with being consistently aggressive than Ball, but he’s found a nice rhythm in his last two games. Ball said that he’s just trying to stay involved offensively.
“Just being more aggressive, trying to get to the rim, rebounding the ball, trying to do what I can to be active,” Ball said.
Ball has scored more points in his last two games than he did in the four games prior as a result.
Ball and Ingram struggle for different reasons, but most of their issues can be fixed by them staying aggressive on both ends of the floor. There will be nights when their shots aren’t falling, but as long they’re taking the right shots and staying involved, their impact will show on the floor.
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