For 15 minutes Wednesday night, the Lakers played arguably their best basketball of the year building a shocking 26 point lead on the road against the mighty San Antonio Spurs, en route to a 102-95 win. Fans in Los Angeles could only watch in despair as the team’s hope of finishing the season with the second-worst record in the league – thereby increasing the chance of holding onto their top-three protected pick in this summer’s draft – was going down the drain.
The Lakers’ coaches did everything they could to ensure the team would lose. It was announced before the game started that D’Angelo Russell would not play. Brandon Ingram, who was dynamic in the first quarter, did not return for the rest of the game. Jordan Clarkson was also shut down at the end of the third quarter. These decisions were all made because of minor injuries, or so it was reported, but the coaches were so desperate to lose that they inserted Metta World Peace in the rotation and he played significant minutes.
Here are three takeaways from the Lakers second win in a row, their first back-to-back wins since January.
1. Certain Players Did Not Know the Team Was Supposed To Lose
Tyler Ennis did not get the message that the Lakers had to lose to the Spurs. He had an excellent game from the start, running the offense efficiently, scoring well from inside and out, and playing pesky defense. He finished with a career-high 19 points, six assists, and two steals. If you want to “blame” someone for this victory, it would be Ennis, who has been looking like the best point guard on the team in recent games.
Thomas Robinson, Corey Brewer, Tarik Black, and David Nwaba did not get the memo either. Every time the Spurs would come close or tie the game, they kept working hard, holding off San Antonio time and time again. In the fourth quarter, it was this group of reserves that beat back the challenge and simply would not let the team lose.
Ennis, Robinson, Brewer, Black and Nwaba are fighting for their professional lives. They don’t want to hear about tanking, they only have their eye on the future. In this contest, they rose to the occasion in an impressive manner.
2. It was Only One Quarter, but Brandon Ingram was a Force
It was reported before the game that Ingram was feeling a twinge in his knee and would again play limited minutes. What that meant the last few games was that he would play around 23 minutes, but in this contest, he was on the court for the first ten minutes only and never returned. For ten minutes, however, he was arguably the best player in the game which is saying something considering he opposition.
In ten minutes, he scored eight points on three of four from the floor. He made both his free throws and had three assists, two rebounds, and a block. He set the tone for this game, and his teammates followed the lead.
Ingram continues to show great improvement since the All-Star break. He is playing with confidence and energy and looks like a totally different player from the tentative rookie fans saw much of the year. More and more, it looks like Ingram is the one untouchable player on the roster this summer.
3. Larry Nance, Jr. Continued His Strong Play Since Becoming a Starter
While Julius Randle was quiet in this game, his front court mate, Larry Nance, Jr., had another strong effort as a starter. He got the team off to a good start in the first quarter, scoring six quick points. Along the way, he showcased his improved shooting by making a three-point shot, and he was solid on the boards finishing with nine rebounds.
Always the good defender, Nance had two blocks and a steal. Defensively, this was one of the Lakers best efforts of the year, and Nance was the catalyst.
Nance has been impressive as a starter. He continues to showcase his solid all-around game. If he continues to play aggressively on offense, it becomes harder and harder to keep him off the court.