Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram take on expanded roles with LeBron James out

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma was averaging 18.6 points per game entering Sunday's game.
(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

As Cleveland Cavaliers coach Larry Drew watched film in preparation for Sunday night’s game against the Lakers, he noticed Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma filling a big void for L.A.

In the previous two Lakers games, Drew saw Ingram and Kuzma taking on larger roles in the absence of LeBron James, who is recovering from a strained groin, and Rajon Rondo, who is recovering from surgery on his right ring finger.

Kuzma has maintained his status as the Lakers’ second-leading scorer, averaging 18.6 points per game entering Sunday’s matchup at Staples Center, while Ingram remained the third-leading scorer, averaging 16.3 points per game.

“In watching them, it looks like Ingram has gotten a little more aggressive off the dribble,” Drew said before Sunday’s game. “Kuzma, I’ve always admired his game from afar. I think both guys have the ability to take their games to another level, especially with L.B. [LeBron James] being out. Let’s hope that’s not the case tonight.”

Kuzma and Ingram combined for 51 points Sunday, but the Cavaliers won 101-95.

Beasley playing well

Lakers forward Michael Beasley, who spent time away from the team to grieve the death of his mother, Fatima Smith, has been stellar since his return.

In five games from Jan. 4-11, Beasley averaged 13.2 points and shot 60%. He did this in just 15.8 minutes per game in a reserve role.


And Beasley did all this after having missed the previous nine games.

“He’s great for us,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “It’s not just what he does on the court, but his energy as far as team chemistry and having him back around has been great in the locker room. We talk about JC [Cleveland’s Jordan Clarkson] being a professional scorer, but he’s a professional scorer and we need that right now.

“We really missed that from him when he was gone. It’s nice to be able to have someone that you feel confident [in], that you put him in actions and he can put a lot of pressure on other team’s defense.”

Beasley had eight points in seven minutes Sunday.

Walton impressed by Clarkson

Clarkson is a foe now that he plays for the Cavaliers, but Walton still is impressed by what the former Lakers guard has accomplished in Cleveland.

Clarkson, who spent the first three-plus seasons of his career playing for the Lakers, was traded to Cleveland last season.

He has flourished, averaging 17.1 points per game as a reserve.

“He’s playing great,” Walton said. “He’s playing with a ton of confidence right now. He’s always been a great scorer. He just seems to be in a real nice groove right now. He continues to get better as a player and that’s what you want to see out of young players.”

Clarkson had just nine points Sunday on four-for-11 shooting.

Twitter: @BA_Turner