The Los Angeles Lakers went 8-13 through the first five weeks of the regular season, complete with growing pains and stretches of subpar and sloppy play that are to be expected from a young team. Somewhat surprisingly, they boasted a top-10 defense during that time — and still do.
The Lakers figured to be tested once the calendar flipped to December. It called for games with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, among others. Heading into it, Lakers head coach Luke Walton called on his team to remain unified through the month.
This week is a particularly daunting stretch for the Lakers. Monday not only is a matchup with the Warriors, but there’s an added distraction as Kobe Bryant will have his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys retired at halftime.
Wednesday calls for a road game against the Rockets, then the Lakers again face the Warriors but away from Staples Center.
“It’s a test for our young guys,” Brandon Ingram said. “I think a lot of our guys are really wide when we play these really, really good teams. We’ve performed well going against these top contenders in this league. We just have to bring it.”
If there’s any reason for the Lakers to not be overwhelmed by their schedule, it’s that they’ve remained competitive against some of the league’s top teams. The Warriors were pushed to overtime in a game late last month, the Rockets saw their lead dwindle in a Dec. 3 game, and the Cavaliers nearly blew a lead.
Ingram has been key to the Lakers playing well this season, as he’s second on the team with an average of 16.2 points per game. Kyle Kuzma is first at 16.3 points.
Moreover, Ingram is also averaging 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, both of which are also career highs. Monday presents Ingram with another opportunity to match up with Kevin Durant. The second-year forward scored 32 points their last time out, leaving the reigning Finals MVP thoroughly impressed.
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