After a struggling through the first five games of preseason, Brandon Ingram at last found his rhythm in the Lakers’ exhibition finale.
The 2016 second-overall pick fought through contact at the rim, hit a couple 3-pointers and flashed his vision in transition and half-court sets, ending the night with 15 points, five assists and a 111-104 victory over the LA Clippers.
It was a much-needed showing for Ingram, who averaged only 9.3 points, 1.3 assists and 31.7 percent shooting entering the game.
“I was more relaxed,” Ingram said. “For me it was just going back, looking at film. … After you look at (film), I don’t think it’s hard to put the ball in the hole.”
Ingram was joined at the forefront of the offense by Brook Lopez, who scored 11 of his team-best 16 points in the first quarter alone, putting the Lakers up by 12 after one.
Lopez shot 7-of-12 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers, as head coach Luke Walton tries to figure out which power forward to pair him with in the starting lineup for next Thursday’s season opener.
Walton started Julius Randle — who had 15 points and seven rebounds against the Clippers — for the first three games of preseason, but switched over to Larry Nance Jr. for the remaining three.
Nance had four points and seven rebounds on Friday, while Walton said that he let his emotions get the best of him.
However, Nance’s above-average defense, attention to details and willingness to sacrifice could result in him starting Thursday’s rematch with the Clippers.
“We have this superstar center that somebody has to mesh with very well defensively and offensively,” Nance said. “I think that’s what (Luke Walton’s) been trying to do: just figure out which personality and play style fits best with Brook.”
Playing with Hart
One reason for Lopez’s hot start was the absence of Clippers All-Star center DeAndre Jordan, who sat out the game along with the majority of the Clippers’ rotation players, including Blake Griffin and Lou Williams.
Nonetheless, a Clippers squad made largely of rookies and training camp invites pulled the game within three with five minutes left.
“If I’m being honest, I think when (the Lakers players) hear that all the Clipper guys are resting, it kinda deflates a little bit,” Walton said, “which is a B.S. excuse.”
The Lakers then turned to their own rookie, Josh Hart, who delivered like he had on so many occasions at Villanova.
The First Team All-American scored the Lakers’ next seven points — including two layups and a step-back jumper — to help seal the win for the purple and gold.
“He’s tough, man,” Walton said. “He loves to mix it up. … He’s one of those players you can tell was in college for a lot of years and at a good program, because he understands the game and understands angles and how to get things done.”
Randle left the fourth quarter with back spasms and will be re-evaluated on Saturday. … Kentavious Caldwell-Pope provided nine points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. … Kyle Kuzma shot just 1-of-8, but had eight points five assists and four rebounds. … Tyrone Wallace (23 points) and Jawun Evans (22) led the Clippers. … A crowd of 16,711 was on hand at STAPLES Center.
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