The Lakers went toe to toe with the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night in a game that shined a light on some positives and a few negatives in individual performances.
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s game.
1. Brandon Ingram’s mental state has been the subject of discussion. He hadn’t been shooting well in the preseason, and he insisted it was mental. On Tuesday, Ingram started well and had nine points at halftime with two assists and a steal. He finished with 13 points. Lakers Coach Luke Walton has said he thought Ingram was pressing a little — trying to show how much he can do all at once. On Tuesday, Walton said Ingram started well, but fell back into his old habits. “Good to see some baskets go in the hoop,” Ingram said. “Of course, I think I could have been a little bit better on the offensive end. I think at the end, I rushed a few shots.”
2. Competition remains for only one starting job: power forward. The Lakers are auditioning Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr., and Nance has started the past two games. As Walton sees it, that has motivated Randle. “Competition’s supposed to bring the best out of you, and I think he’s really stepping his game up with that happening,” Walton said. “He’s using it to play with an edge, and he’s been great in practice the past two or three days. I thought he had a phenomenal game in Vegas.” For what it’s worth, Walton doesn’t think Randle’s contract status (he’s in his last year) is affecting his playing.
3. Walton seems torn about the direction he wants to go with the power forward position. Nance insists he doesn’t care whether he’s the starter or he comes off the bench to replace Randle. “That’s been an awesome competition,” Nance said. “I love going in every day knowing he’s going to challenge me and I’m going to challenge him. We’re both just getting better and better.”
4. To close the game, Walton went with a young lineup. His reasoning: “[Kyle] Kuzma’s going one on one with Iso Joe [Johnson], who’s one of the best in the game. Even though he scored those, I thought Kuz did a great job of battling. He got to experience what that’s like. And he’ll learn from it. He’ll get better at it. Josh Hart had some good shots at the end. Those minutes down the stretch is good and we’re trying to win the game, but at the same time, it’s a great opportunity for experience for those young guys.” Kuzma, by the way, led the team with 18 points, tied with Jordan Clarkson.
5. Alex Caruso had a nice game with 10 assists. There’s a sense of calm about him on the court, and it seems to help the other players. He’s getting more playing time because the point guard rotation has tightened in Lonzo Ball’s absence.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli