LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers continued their improved play on Friday extending to a three-game win streak edging out the Sacramento Kings 98-94.
It became a back-and-forth contest after the first quarter that saw the Lakers etch out a win in the final minute of the game behind key buckets and defensive plays. The victory snapped their four-game home losing streak to Kings. Here are a few takeaways:
Randle Leads The Way
One of the major factors in Friday’s win over the Kings was Julius Randle‘s strong performance notching a game-high 25 points with six rebounds.
Randle had the bulk of his offensive production in the third quarter scoring a team-high 13 points on an efficient 6-of-7 shooting from the field including an impressive three-point play created after a behind-the-back dribble to free him up for the layup that he finished through contact.
He was particularly huge down the stretch scoring four points in the final two minutes with a pair of free throws and a layup that each gave the lead back to the Lakers. It helped cap off an offensive outing that Randle has shown he is fully capable of when engaged in the offense, which is something that head coach Luke Walton pointed out after the win.
“Julius plays with a lot of feel, especially on the offensive end. I think he struggles when he floats around the perimeter,” Walton said. “We don’t want the majority of the plays to be pick and pops. He is too good at getting in the paint.”
Through his first three seasons in the league, Randle’s biggest issue has been his inconsistency in production. There are games like Friday night where he puts together promising outings, but there are too often nights where he is seemingly absence in the flow of the offense.
All in all, this is something that Randle will look to improve on in the final few games and in the offseason.
Ingram Showing Progress
Heading into Friday’s game, there was much question as to what type of impact the Lakers’ rookie forward would have in limited playing time for the fourth straight contest due to nagging right patellar tendonitis.
Brandon Ingram didn’t appear to be hampered by the injury finishing with 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting with two rebounds, and two steals in 25 minutes played. He got off to an encouraging start scoring six of the Lakers’ first 13 points on 3-of-3 shooting. He was heavily involved in the team’s first two made field goals dishing an assist on a 3-pointer by Jordan Clarkson while following it up with a turnaround jumper.
A few possessions later, he broke free for a dunk down the middle of the lane and added a layup transition on the next play. Following that, he struggled offensively missing his next four shots from the field. He picked it up in the third quarter with eight points in the period that were highlighted by throwing down a thunderous dunk in transition over Willie Cauley-Stein.
“It’s just attacking the rim,” Ingram said of the dunk.”The last couple of games, I have been using my length to attack the rim.”
Ingram’s night ended early as he didn’t enter the game in the fourth quarter finishing with 25 minutes played. Although the statistics may not show it every night, the 19-year-old has continued to show promise in stretches as the season has progressed giving much reason to believe there is a quite promising future ahead of him.
Tanking Not On Their Minds
With the end of the regular season in sight, the focus has seemingly shifted over to the standings where the Lakers entered Friday night with the third-worst record in the league.
That remained the same with both the Lakers and Phoenix Suns winning keeping Los Angeles a game above their Pacific division foe in the overall standings. Despite this being a major topic of discussion from the outside, it hasn’t penetrated the players’ train of thought heading into each remaining contest.
“Tanking. We don’t believe in that,” Randle said. “We are players and we go out and win games. If we do that the basketball gods will haunt us.”
Ingram also voiced similar sentiment about that notion stating that the team’s sole focus is on playing together as a team and winning games.
“I don’t think it’s frustrating at all. As players, we come in here to win games,” Ingram said. “We can’t listen to anyone else. We come in and compete as a unit and listen to the coaches and everyone around us.”
That said, this will remain a primary theme for the final three games, especially with their chances of retaining their top-three protected 2017 first-round pick hanging in the balance. Even with that being the case, it has become quite clear that the players are not one bit concerned about it.
Bob Garcia IV
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