Lakers finally get defensive and turn back the Magic, 111-95

Brandon Ingram strolled into the Lakers practice facility Saturday night, holding sneakers in one hand and dressed for a late-night workout on his own.

Except when he walked in, he saw the practice court occupied. The Los Angeles D-Fenders and the Grand Rapids Drive, two NBA Development League teams, were then in the third quarter of a game. 

Ingram left for a gym down the street, but not before his coach beamed at what he saw from his rookie. That extra work, that extra commitment, has led to Ingram’s surge lately. On Sunday night, the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic, 111-95, with Ingram scoring a career-high-tying 17 points, the second consecutive game in which Ingram scored 17 points.

“Whether he’s shooting one for eight or scoring 17 points we keep leaving him out there because we know what he’s capable of,” Coach Luke Walton said. “Some of the passes he had there today, for a 19-year-old rookie that’s not a point guard to be making those type of passes in traffic in the fourth quarter of every game. Second half of the game, speaks to his feel for the game of basketball.”

Sunday marked only the eighth time this season that the Lakers held an opponent to fewer than 100 points. The loudest Staples Center got Sunday evening wasn’t for a three-point basket or a flashy dunk. Instead, when Julius Randle blocked a shot by guard Evan Fournier in the fourth quarter, then wrestled away a steal, the crowd erupted.

Randle led the Lakers with 19 points, and center Timofey Mozgov made all seven of his shots and had 15 points. D’Angelo Russell had 17 points and eight assists. 

After making nearly 70% of their first-quarter shots, the Magic made less than 30% of their shots in the final three quarters. The third quarter was completely dominated by the Lakers, who held Orlando to nine points. The Magic’s two-for-20 shooting in the third quarter marked the lowest field-goal percentage for any Lakers opponent in a quarter. 

“We were the aggressors, 100%,” Walton said. “We were talking, we were calling plays out, we were calling our coverages out early. We were into the ballhandlers. We were making our rotations from the weakside better than we had all season.”

Down the stretch, Ingram was particularly effective. Fourteen of his 17 points came in the second half when he made every shot he took. Twelve of his points came in the fourth quarter.

“I’m starting to feel comfortable in just finding openings in the offense, just trying to make plays for myself but also for my teammates,” Ingram said.

It’s Ingram understanding the physicality of the NBA better. Walton has seen him get pushed around less in the paint and assert himself more. 

Sunday’s game offered the Lakers another example that Ingram is heading in the right direction.

“I have been in basketball a long time and I know talent when I see it,” Lakers forward Luol Deng said. “There’s things that you just have that you can’t teach and he has those things.”

In the training facility the Lakers will move into next season, there will be two basketball courts. Then, a rookie looking for a place to shoot won’t be displaced by development-league game as Ingram was Saturday.

As Ingram grows, he’ll have more room to do so.

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Twitter: @taniaganguli

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