Despite having JaVale McGee back in the starting lineup, the Lakers’ defense looked as bad as it has all season, and the 114 points they allowed is evidence of that. Lonzo Ball had an especially hard time staying in front of De’Aaron Fox, who poured on 26 points on an efficient 12-19 shooting from the field. As a result, Ball finished with a game-low box plus-minus of -20.
Despite this, the Lakers managed to narrowly escape with a win thanks in no small part to the production they got out of their wings on Sunday, especially Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who contributed a team-high 26 points in 28 minutes off of the bench while posting a game-high box plus-minus of +19.
Josh Hart was also huge for the Lakers down the stretch, getting it done on both ends of the floor with the game on the line. He ended the night with 22 points on 8-14 shooting from the field.
Last, but certainly not least, Brandon Ingram continued his stretch of impressive games in James’ absence, tallying 21 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds in 39 minutes. His free throw shooting is still a big issue, but so is almost everyone else on the team’s.
The Lakers will have the next two days to regroup before taking the floor for their first game of the new year against the No. 3 seed Oklahoma City Thunder. It will be Paul George’s visit to Staples Center since he decided not to take a meeting with L.A. in free agency.
I’m sure the fans at Staples will give him a warm welcome home.