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What we learned from the Lakers’ 123-114 loss to the Grizzlies

Lakers forward Julius Randle controls the ball against Memphis forward JaMychal Green on Jan. 15.
(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)

Here’s what we learned in the Lakers’ 123-114 loss to Memphis:

Lonzo matters

Ignore the Big Baller Brand. Ignore the loudmouth patriarch. Ignore the hype.

Lonzo Ball, the basketball player, is absolutely critical to the Lakers.

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The team has yet to win a game without him on the court this season, and that’s not a coincidence. He’s an active defender and the captain of the offense, getting the Lakers into rhythm and pushing the tempo to the point it needs to be at.

The Lakers aren’t a very good team when Ball is on the court, but they’re much worse when he’s not.

Ingram matters

The same can be said for second-year forward Brandon Ingram.

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In a game like Monday’s, the Lakers desperately could’ve used his length and creative scoring ability early on. His work on defense wouldn’t have hurt either.

While there aren’t any real incentives to rush him back from his ankle injury or to hurry Ball back from his knee soreness, it at least seems like Ingram could make it back Wednesday in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.

The Lakers got surprised by the obvious

The biggest disappointment coming out of the loss in Memphis had to have been the Lakers’ lackluster energy.

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Playing in Memphis on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Lakers had to be aware that the Grizzlies would be full of emotion. They’ve carved out a reputation over the past decade of being a physical team. Everyone in the league should know what to expect.

So, to go into Memphis and get “punked,” as coach Luke Walton said, is inexcusable. The Lakers had to know it was coming and they weren’t even a little ready for it.

No one really stepped up

When a team is missing its best two players, it creates opportunities for other players to take control of the situation, and Monday, the top candidates all flopped.

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Brook Lopez, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson — all three capable of turning in a big game when it’s needed — all faltered. The trio combined to shoot 6-for-27 from the field.

The team got a good game from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart did some good things and Larry Nance Jr. filled the stat sheet but it wasn’t nearly enough.

For the Lakers to have won Monday — and for them to win Wednesday — they’ll need more from their established pros.

Gary Payton II will get more of a chance

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The newest Laker played the entire fourth quarter and finished the game with a team-best +11 plus/minus. He was active on defense, blocking a pair of shots on the same possession, and it’s clear he’ll be able to compete athletically.

The playbook will be extremely limited with Payton on the court, but with Ball’s injury, Payton could be the team’s back-up point guard in the short term.

dan.woike@latimes.com

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports

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