While the Los Angeles Lakers young core flashed encouraging signs of development and ability to hold their own throughout stretches of last season, the group appeared to regress some in the wake of LeBron James and Rajon Rondo each suffering an injury.
Add to it that Kyle Kuzma didn’t play in the second half of last Wednesday’s matchup and missed the two ensuing games because of a lower back contusion, and the Lakers’ struggles were even more pronounced.
They were lifeless in the first quarters of games with the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves, with both games resulting in deflating losses. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram failed to meet heightened expectations and were questioned by head coach Luke Walton after the Timberwolves thumped the Lakers.
They both turned matters around against the Dallas Mavericks, with Ingram scoring a season-high 29 points and Ball playing with renewed energy and aggressiveness in another all-around performance.
Following the Lakers’ win, Ball explained his mindset in what he felt was a pivotal game of the team, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Just trying to be more aggressive, shoot when I’m open and try to force the issue a little bit more. … I don’t like losing. We were 1-5 to this point, so it was kind of like a must-win.”
While Ball and the Lakers had better energy, the first couple minutes of the game were still a low point for the team. The Mavericks took a lead and remained ahead, by double-digits for most of it, until the third quarter.
Kuzma shook off a poor shooting night to provide a boost in the third quarter, and so too did Ingram and Michael Beasley. Ball’s 21 points were second on the team, and his dunk on a fastbreak late in the third quarter gave the Lakers their first lead of the game.
Ball connected on half of his eight three-point attempts; the last of which helped stave off the Mavs’ attempt at a rally in the fourth quarter. He added 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals to help power the Lakers to a comeback win after they trailed by as many as 15 points.
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