After the Lakers touched down here in Dallas on Sunday night, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram had some talking to do. They’d both come off one of their worst games of the season, coach Luke Walton had called for more passion from them and they knew things had to change.
Last season, the weight fell on them primarily, a pair of No. 2 overall draft picks expected to be great.
This season, it hadn’t fallen on them until recently. But with LeBron James and Rajon Rondo recovering from injuries, Ball and Ingram were again forced into leading roles.
“I just thought we had to step up,” Ball said. “We got to be a lot better if we want to win games and the performance we had yesterday wasn’t going to get it done.”
Then Monday night they showed a new resolve.
Behind Ingram and Ball, the Lakers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 107-97, ending a three-game losing streak and reaching the halfway point in their reason with a 22-19 record.
Ingram scored 29 points, including the game-sealing layup, with six assists and three rebounds. Ball scored 21 points with seven rebounds and five assists.
“Life is always about how you respond,” forward Kyle Kuzma said. “They did a hell of a job tonight.”
Josh Hart played the entire second half and scored 14 points with 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals.
Rookie sensation Luka Doncic led Dallas with 27 points and scored 15 of the Mavericks’ 30 second-half points.
The win gave the Lakers a season sweep of the Mavericks (18-22) for the first time since the 2011-12 season. They are 2-5 without James.
“We just got to win, find a way to win games,” Ball said. “Out of those six games we played, I thought four of them should have been wins. We were winning the whole game and closed them all the same way.
“Obviously we got blown out last game and today was one where we turned things around.”
Said Ingram: “I think with [Ball] being in that position, I think our point guard is our leader. He makes everything happen and tonight he did a really, really good job of pushing the pace. He got us in all our sets. When he did that I think guys followed.”
What the Lakers knew Sunday afternoon as they trudged off the court after a 22-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves was the difference between what they could and couldn’t control.
They couldn’t control their injury situation. They couldn’t help that they were without three of their most important offensive players, including James. But they could control their effort and their fight. They knew it had to be better.
With Kuzma back in the lineup after sitting out two games because of a lower back contusion, the Lakers were closer to full strength. Their energy and effort made a big comeback.
The Lakers fell behind 11-3 on Monday, after falling behind 22-3 on Sunday.
But this time they scored the game’s next six points.
After Ball failed to score Sunday, and Ingram scored only in the second quarter, the two combined for the Lakers’ first nine points.
Still, the Lakers trailed by eight after the first quarter and by as many as 15 in the second. At halftime, they trailed by 13.
“I told the guys at halftime, I was actually very pleased with our competitive spirit in the first half,” Walton said. “I was a little surprised we were down that much. I thought guys were giving it their all, competing, sharing the ball offensively.
“The message at halftime was more let’s take this energy we’re playing with, this competitive spirit we’re playing with, and let’s mentally turn that up.”
In the third quarter, the Lakers stifled the Mavericks, who scored only 13 points.
Ball’s dunk with 1:12 left in the quarter gave the Lakers their first lead.
From there, they took control.
An 18-2 run in the second half ended when Doncic made a three-point shot. But until 5:14 remained in the game, Doncic was the only Mavericks starter to score in the second half.