The Los Angeles Lakers took a huge step toward their postseason aspirations on Thursday by upsetting the fifth-seeded Houston Rockets, 111-106, at Staples Center.
As expected, LeBron James led the way for the Lakers with a team-high 29 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 6 assists, but James couldn’t have done it without the help of Brandon Ingram, who picked up right where he left off coming back from the All-Star break.
In 41 minutes for the Lakers, Ingram put up 27 points on an efficient 50 percent shooting from the field, while also grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. He also got it done from the charity stripe, making 11 of his 14 attempts. For context, Ingram is a career 65.7 percent free-throw shooter, so such accuracy hasn’t previously been the norm for him.
Following the game, James was asked if Ingram was a good second option to him against the Rockets, and he quickly dismissed the idea that Ingram is nothing more than a sidekick.
“He wasn’t a wingman for me. He was special for our team. B.I. is very special and when he’s rebounding like that, it just activates the rest of his game,” James said. “He did a great job rebounding, and he did a great job getting in the paint and getting us free throws and just being in attack mode all game.”
What’s been evident over this impressive stretch of games for Ingram is his newfound appreciation for his 7-foot-3 wingspan, which played a big role in the way he was able to dominate on the glass on Thursday.
It’s also the reason he’s been able to get by his defenders with ease, which is what stood out to teammate JaVale McGee.
“I think he played amazing. He’s so long out there, the way they have to guard him, it’s hard to guard him. And he played great defense also, so he had a great game,” McGee said.
A lot has been made about the lack of a second star to pair James with on the Lakers’ roster, and while it might be too soon to pin that label on the 21-year-old forward just yet, Ingram has looked the part as of late.
Over his last 15 games, Ingram is averaging 19.3 points per game on 52.7 percent shooting from the field, to go along with 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. The only players to match or supersede those averages during that time are Julius Randle, Nikola Vucevic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Elite company.
It’s certainly possible that this is just a hot streak for Ingram, but everything he’s shown on the court over the past several weeks suggests that he’s simply just starting to figure it out. If this is the Ingram the Lakers are going to get on a night-to-night basis, their playoff push is going to be a lot more interesting.
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