Los Angeles — Before Brandon Ingram could address reporters following the Los Angeles Lakers’ 121-114 win over the Sacramento Kings, the media had to clear some space. After playing 39 minutes (one minute off of his season high), Ingram would need room for Lakers assistant athletic trainer Nina Hsieh to apply ice bags to his knees.
Even as teammate Kyle Kuzma jokingly shouted at Ingram to stand up for his interview, Ingram remained seated with the copious ice bags strapped to his aching legs. After a 21-point, 9-assist, 7-rebound, 2-block and 1-steal night against the Kings, Ingram had given all he had to offer for the night, impressing his teammates and coaches alike with his all-around effort in the precess.
“When people ask ‘when is Brandon at his best, who is he?’ I tell (them), he is a basketball player,” said Lakers head coach Luke Walton. “With him, it’s not about looking for his teammates first or not, it’s just making the right play. I thought tonight he did that.”
“He did a great job of facilitating tonight. Finding that balance of driving, not settling for mid-range jump shots and getting to that rim,” added Kuzma. “This was one of his better games of the year I think, from the standpoint of getting everybody involved.”
If measuring with assists, it literally was the most Ingram has gotten teammates involved, with his 9 helpers against the Kings surpassing Ingram’s previous season-high of seven in a November game against Orlando.
Ingram’s improved facilitation for his teammates wasn’t a happy accident, either. It’s something he’s been focused on improving.
“It’s the best way to play. I don’t think no one wants to go in and force shots or just put up 20-30 shots,” Ingram said. “I think it’s the most comfortable I’ve felt for sure.”
That comfort showed in the way Ingram drove into the lane to patiently probe for angles to get passes to his teammates, as well as a couple of nifty ballhandling sequences in which Ingram used ball and head fakes to get all the way to the rim.
“He’s very good at playing at his own pace, and tonight he didn’t get sped up at all,” said Lakers guard Lonzo Ball. “He got to his spots, and when he does that he’s very difficult to guard because he’s so big, especially playing point guard. He can get in the lane, he knows how to pass, (and) he did his thing tonight.”
Ingram said that the Lakers haven’t necessarily put any more focus on telling him to pass lately, but that’s partially because the team is always trying to get better at passing.
“There’s added emphasis every single night we step on the floor of passing the ball and getting the best shots for our team,” Ingram said, before a small smile grew on his face as he got brutally honest about his and the rest of the team’s games. “I don’t think we always do it, because we naturally want to score the basketball, but I think it was the best way to play tonight.”
It was also the happiest way the Lakers — and by extension, Ingram, even if he was tired afterwards — could play.
“He seemed to have a joy about him playing tonight that, when he has it, it’s a lot of fun to watch,” Walton said. “He was really good tonight.”
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