Tony Avelar/Associated Press
On a day when LeBron James left early due to an injury, the Los Angeles Lakers sent a message to the Golden State Warriors with a 127-101 victory at Oracle Arena on Christmas Day.
James was officially listed as questionable to return after straining his left groin in the third quarter, but the Lakers kept him out for the remainder of the game. The four-time NBA MVP still contributed 17 points and 13 rebounds in 21 minutes before departing.
Head coach Luke Walton was able to rally his team thanks to another strong game from Ivica Zubac. The third-year center finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Tuesday’s win is the biggest of the season for the Lakers, who have struggled with an 8-9 record away from Staples Center.
Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers with 19 points. Rajon Rondo had a double-double off the bench with 15 points and 10 assists in 23 minutes.
Pressure Is on Brandon Ingram to Lead Lakers After LeBron Injury
After last season ended, the assumption was Brandon Ingram was poised to become a superstar and an excellent No. 2 behind James for the Lakers.
During the preseason, James seemed to go out of his way to stoke the flames around Ingram and his potential.
“[Ingram’s] got the juice,” James told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. “He’s going to be a special player.”
Things haven’t materialized for Ingram since the season started. The former Duke star has seen his scoring average drop from 16.1 points last season to 15.5 points per game. He’s lost more than eight percentage points from his three-point shot (39.0 to 30.8) and went from averaging 5.3 rebounds to 4.1 per game.
Through an up-and-down season, though, Ingram is still capable of showing off the skills that had everybody excited just two months ago. This move he put on Durant in the first quarter is something few players are capable of:
Ingram making plays early for the @Lakers! #NBAXmas
📺: ABC/ESPN https://t.co/IGtT56lxd0
Ingram finished with 14 points in 24 minutes. He’s averaging 17.3 points in three games since returning from a sprained ankle.
While it remains to be determined how much time James will miss, Michael J. Duarte of NBC Sports Los Angeles noted the Lakers star could be heard saying he “heard a pop” when his injury occurred.
If James is forced to miss substantial time, they will need to find a new go-to-guy who can create shots and lead the offense.
The Lakers are in a good position to tread water thanks to the strong veteran presence of Rondo, who is an excellent distributor and still has games when he hits open shots.
But Ingram has the kind of ceiling no one else on the Lakers can match when he’s playing at his best. He has to step up his play to keep this team in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
The Lakers will finish their two-game road trip Thursday against the Sacramento Kings. The Warriors will wrap up a four-game homestand when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.
This article will be updated to provide more information soon.
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