LOS ANGELES — Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) It wasn’t pretty, but Lakers get first win without LeBron James. There were positives if you’re a Laker fan: Brandon Ingram looked the most comfortable he has all season, and any time you get a win against another team in the playoff chase in the West while your best player is out it’s a good thing.
But if I were going to choose a word to describe the 121-114 Lakers win over the Kings Sunday night it would be…
This game was filled with all kinds of passes into the front row, guys picking up their dribbles without a plan, moving screens, three-second violations, and Willie Cauley-Stein getting the rebound and trying to go coast-to-coast type moments. Defense was often an afterthought.
Honestly, it was fun. Entertaining as heck (surprisingly, the Kings have become a League Pass favorite this season because their games are always a show). It just was not pretty.
Especially for Sacramento fans. At the 7:25 mark of the fourth quarter the Kings had a 108-101 lead, but Sacramento would shoot 3-of-14 the rest of the way, including 0-of-7 from three. While the Lakers picked up their defensive intensity, the Kings just missed wide-open corner threes and other looks they had been hitting all night.
“We missed some shots, the open ones that we had, and we didn’t get stops down the stretch,” De’Aaron Fox said after the game. “The last few games we’ve won, we got stops down the stretch and we didn’t do that today.”
The loss stung the Kings.
“Trying to make the playoffs in this conference, you really start to think about the ones you let slip,” Fox said.
For the Lakers, it was a win without LeBron, but the best part was Brandon Ingram, who finished with 21 points on 13 shot attempts, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds. He had passes that could have led to 11 more assists, but guys just missed the shot. The difference was Ingram was making quick decisions rather than facing up and surveying, and with that the offense flowed better.
“I thought Brandon Ingram, he showed, tonight, the complete game…” Laker coach Luke Walton said. “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 seemed to have a joy about him playing tonight that, when he has it, it’s a lot of fun to watch.”
The question is, will Ingram have that joy when LeBron returns from his groin injury?
For now, the Lakers will ignore the questions and just take the win. They are 1-2 without LeBron and Oklahoma City is up next.
2) Luka Doncic drops Paul George, Mavericks come back in last two minutes to beat Thunder. And the legend of Luka Doncic continues to grow… how about a hesitation move that drops Paul George? Here you go.
Much like Sacramento is kicking itself for letting a game it thought it had get away, Oklahoma City is doing the same thing. The Thunder were ahead 101-95 with less than 2 minutes to go in the game, but the Mavericks went on a 10-2 in the final 1:56 to get the 105-103 win. That’s a tough loss for OKC.
3) Karl-Anthony Towns goes off for historic 34 points, 18 rebounds, in Minnesota win in Miami. Minnesota has struggled this season, never really defending well, not scoring consistently, and never really recovering fully from the Jimmy Butler-induced nightmare to start the season.
But they still have Karl-Anthony Towns, and he is still outstanding. Just ask the Miami Heat, who had no answer for him on Sunday.
Towns had 34 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists, six blocks, and three steals. Those are Kareem-Abdul Jabbar numbers.