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Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram acquits himself well in first NBA start

Brandon Ingram, Draymond Green
Among the matchups Lakers rookie forward Brandon Ingram faced Wednesday night in Oakland was battling Warriors forward Draymond Green on the boards.
(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)

Nothing was easy about Brandon Ingram’s first start. He guarded Kevin Durant. Draymond Green guarded him. The Lakers rookie found himself thrown into some of the toughest matchups in the league right away.

It was a “welcome to the NBA” moment, certainly, but Ingram refused to frame it that way.

“I’m in the NBA now,” Ingram said. “Guarding a lot of guys, there’s a lot of different guys in this league so it’s not a surprise anymore, it’s just going out there and trying to compete.”

Ingram started in place of Julius Randle, who sat out the game Wednesday because of a hip pointer/oblique injury. Randle hopes to be able to play Friday against the Golden State Warriors. He even said before Wednesday’s game that if the Lakers were not playing on consecutive nights, he might have been able to avoid missing a game.

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The Lakers could be without starting shooting guard Nick Young, who jammed the second toe on his left foot and sprained it. Young is listed as questionable for Friday’s game. They’ll also be without starting point guard D’Angelo Russell for what’s expected to be two weeks.

“We’re getting hit by the injury bug,” Young said. “Miss my man Russell out there, and Randle. We needed those guys tonight.”

Russell had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left knee, a procedure by which a patient’s own blood is spun so that it is concentrated with platelets, and then is injected back into an injured area. It is used to help heal tendon, ligament, cartilage and bone injuries. 

In Russell’s absence, the Lakers have been starting veteran point guard Jose Calderon. That served as another example of Lakers Coach Luke Walton’s hesitance to break up his second unit, which included Ingram, forward Larry Nance Jr., center Tarik Black and guards Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams. That group is one of the best second units in the NBA.

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Walton also shied from breaking them up earlier this month when Timofey Mozgov missed a game with a left eye contusion. Rookie second-round pick Ivica Zubac got the start instead of Black.

That trend changed Wednesday. When the Lakers met pregame to discuss their plans against the Warriors, Ingram was told he would be starting.

“We were still out there on the court together but it was definitely different getting in the lineup with the different guys,” Nance said. “With some of the injuries we’ve had, we’re going to have to get used to it.”

It could also mean more opportunity for Ingram, whom Walton is easing into the starting lineup. In his first start, the second overall pick scored 16 points and had three rebounds.

“I think he was good,” Walton said. “He was aggressive. They had Draymond guarding him and early in the game, Draymond forced a couple turnovers. He kind of settled into the game after that and he looked good.”

It wasn’t an easy game for any of the Lakers, as they lost by 43 points. It did, however, offer a brief glimpse at one player’s future.

UP NEXT FOR THE LAKERS

VS. GOLDEN STATE

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When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 8-8; Thunder 13-2

Record vs. Warriors: 1-1

Update: The emotional firsts are out of the way and now the Lakers will have a chance at a little bit of redemption after a rough second meeting this season. While the Lakers blew out the Warriors in their first meeting at Staples Center, the Warriors throttled the Lakers, 149-106, on Wednesday. Walton said for evaluation purposes, that game should be thrown into the trash. He also told his team the great thing about the NBA is they’d have a chance to recover in two days.

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Twitter: @taniaganguli

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