Brandon Ingram on LaVar Ball talk: Important it stays out of Lakers’ locker room

LOS ANGELES — With controversy swirling around them and frustration mounting over the past couple of tumultuous weeks, the Los Angeles Lakersavoided tying a franchise record low by snapping a nine-game losing streak with a desperately needed 132-113 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

And in the process, the Lakers (12-27) backed up Luke Walton’s and rookie point guard

Facing what felt like a must-win against the worst team in the NBA with the possibility of things spiraling further out of control, the Lakers avoided adding fuel and speculation to what LaVar Ball said by not matching the franchise’s record low of 10 straight losses. A loss to the lowly Hawks (10-29) would have been embarrassing for a team that lost six games during the slide by 17, 10, 15, 18, 37 and 14 points.

After the Lakers’ first victory since Dec. 20, Walton was even able to crack a joke about LaVar Ball when asked about his strategy for taking his rookie point guard out midway through the first and second quarters to use him to start the next quarter with the second unit.

“Um, yeah, his dad was talking s— so I took him out early,” Walton deadpanned. Walton paused for a few seconds before saying “just kidding” and then explaining the point guard asked to come out early in the first quarter and that the Lakers’ plan was to play Ball more with the second unit at the start of the second and fourth quarters.

But, for once, the Lakers could finally smile and laugh after two and a half weeks of losing. The organization and players were certainly aware of the elder Ball’s criticism and how a loss to Atlanta could’ve inflamed things for the next few days.

“It is important for us to let that stay out of the locker room,” Brandon Ingramsaid of LaVar Ball’s comments.

“It is our job to come in here and listen to our head coach every single day and listen to the assistants,” added Ingram, who led eight Lakers in double-figures with 20 points and seven assists. “We can’t control what’s on the outside or who is talking on the outside. We just try to stay within this team and see how we can make each other better each and every day.”

During the losing streak, the Lakers held a team meeting to air out their issues with players voicing their frustrations about everything from how some players were being used to the direction of the team and how management is focused on next summer and landing two star free agents.

Walton had to juggle lineups and rotations with injuries to starters such as Ball, Brook Lopez and Ingram while also having to deal with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope not being allowed to play out of California due to legal restrictions stemming from a plea agreement out of his March arrest under suspicion of drunk driving.

Despite primary owner Jeanie Buss tweeting her support for Walton with the hashtag “InLukeWeTrust” on New Year’s Eve, Walton’s job security became a topic twice this weekend. On Friday morning, Walton said he wasn’t coaching as if his job was in jeopardy and then LaVar Ball criticized the head coach again this season by saying that “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.”

On the morning of the game against the Hawks, Walton and his rookie point guard were forced to answer several questions about whether he still has the locker room and their relationship.

Both disputed LaVar Ball’s assertion that Walton had lost the team and Lonzo Ball had to field numerous questions about his father’s opinion and if he agreed.

“He’s a grown man,” the Lakers point guard said of his father’s comments. “Like I said, he is going to say what he wants to say. I can’t [do] nothing about it.”

“My job is to play basketball,” he said when asked about having a preference for certain coaches. “I don’t decide who coaches.”

Doing what he has always tried to do when his father made headlines, Ball focused on playing. He had 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Ball helped push the pace to a new speed for the run-focused Lakers, who had 42 fast-break points. At the half, he outscored the Hawks in that category 28-0.

“We always say it, it is us against everybody,” Ball said of how the team has tried sticking together during the free fall.

The Lakers led by as much as 26, their biggest lead of the season, and trounced the Hawks (10-29). Now they hope to build their first winning streak since Dec. 9 by trying to beat the Sacramento Kingsat home on Tuesday.

“Yes, it feels good to win,” said Walton, who received calls from some of his coaching peers expressing support. “I am going to enjoy the night and get some sleep finally and then we got to let [the win] go.”

“We need to focus our energy and minds on what we are doing and that is the message we send every day,” Walton added of dealing with distractions. “Don’t worry about what people on Twitter are saying, don’t worry about what this media outlet is saying or that one or your agent [is saying]. The people that matter to what we are trying to do is all in our room. So we have to be able to trust each other and have each other’s backs. That obviously is not always going to be 100 percent true but that is the messaging all year long.”

Lakers beat Hawks 132-119 to end nine-game losing streak

LOS ANGELES — For nine games, the Los Angeles Lakers just couldn’t figure out how to get their defense back on the right track.

Against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night, things finally felt familiar on that end.

The Lakers swiped 13 steals and scored 26 points off turnovers en route to a 132-113 victory that snapped their nine-game losing streak.

“It was good to kind of see the guys get back to that mode where defense anchors what we do offensively instead of the other way around,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said.

Brandon Ingram had 20 points and seven assists, while Lonzo Ball finished with 13 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Julius Randle had 15 points and nine rebounds in his sixth straight start.

Nine Lakers recorded at least one steal. Brook Lopez had four on his own.

“Everybody was on a string together,” Ingram said. “We trusted each other, whether it was individual defense, whether it was help-side defense, transition defense. I think we all trusted each other.”

Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 27 points on 10-of-23 shooting. Kent Bazemore and John Collins added 15 points apiece.

Los Angeles led by as many as 26 points — its biggest margin this season — and enjoyed a strong shooting night. The Lakers made 55.8 percent of their field goals, and shot 44.4 percent from 3-point range.

ADVERTISEMENT

Even free throws went in for the Lakers, who came into Sunday as the worst team in the league in that category. Los Angeles made 20 of 25.

The Hawks, on the other hand, shot just 43.6 percent from the field.

Los Angeles went on a 16-3 run in the opening minutes of the second quarter that culminated in a transition 3-pointer by Ball and a basket by Larry Nance Jr. off a pass from Josh Hart. The lead quickly ballooned to 20 after another 3 by Ball and a layup by Kyle Kuzma.

In all, the Lakers outscored the Hawks 37-21 in the second frame.

“They were out and running on the fast break, making 3s, making layups,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think it started with good defense on their part. We weren’t executing offensively.”

The Hawks closed within 13 with 10:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, but a long pass from Kuzma led to a one-handed dunk by Ball, giving the Lakers a 17-point lead. Hart’s 3-pointer with 5:33 left in the game gave Los Angeles its biggest lead.

The Hawks started the game on a 10-2 run, but the Lakers recovered. Kuzma’s basket on a strong drive gave Los Angeles a 29-27 lead just before the first-quarter buzzer.

TIP-INS

Lakers: Got their first home win since Nov. 21 against the Chicago Bulls. … Beat the Hawks 36 years earlier to the day for an NBA-record 33rd straight win. … Eight Lakers scored in double figures.

Hawks: Budenholzer picked up a technical foul in the first quarter. … Taurean Prince dislocated his right ring finger in the first quarter, but returned to the game.

LAVAR AND LUKE

Walton said earlier Sunday that he wasn’t bothered by LaVar Ball’s claim to ESPN that he had lost control of the team, adding that his only concern was his relationship with Lonzo Ball. Walton said he’d received messages of support from coaches who advised him to “not be concerned with parents and what other people outside the organization think.”

FAST PACE

The Lakers scored 42 fast-break points, tying a franchise record. It was their largest such total since 2001. Los Angeles outscored Atlanta in transition 28-0 in the first half alone.

“That’s what we’re great at,” Larry Nance Jr. said. “When we have Zo, we’re a beast when it comes to running. He’s so good at finding it, pushing it and hitting open guys that it’s contagious and then everybody gets involved.”

Pace-Pushing Lakers Rush Past Hawks

It was the kind of night that the Lakers envisioned when they drafted Lonzo Ball second overall this summer.

Players sprinted out in transition, the ball was whipped all across the floor and the shots wouldn’t stop falling, as the Lakers scorched the court with a 132-113 win over Atlanta.

Ball — the main reason for the Lakers’ league-leading pace — was at the heart of all this, as the purple and gold scored a franchise-record 42 points on fast breaks.

“You can see that we’re having a lot of fun when we play like that,” Ball said. “It benefits my game perfectly. I’ve played like that my whole life.”

Ball finished the night with 13 points (10 on fast breaks), 10 rebounds and six assists.

He, Jordan Clarkson (18 points) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (14) each hit three 3-pointers, as the Lakers made a season-best 16 shots from beyond the arc.

But the outburst was about so much more than the long ball, as the Lakers snapped their nine-game losing streak with one of their most efficient scoring nights in recent memory.

They shot 55.8 percent from the field — their highest in four years — dished out 32 assists and had eight players score in double figures.

As for that offensive potency, much could be traced back to how aggressive the Lakers were on the other side of the ball.

The Lakers — who played the worst defense in the league during their losing streak — finally put it together. With the roster back at full strength, the Lakers communicated well and expended effort in challenging Atlanta’s shots.

The result was a plethora of rebounds that were immediately pushed ahead, creating transition opportunities.

“That’s when we’re at our best,” coach Luke Walton said. “When we can get deflections or blocks. Or our bigs come in and grab the rebound and we can hit those lanes.”

Brandon Ingram — who scored 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting — co-piloted the fast-break attack alongside Ball.

“Earlier this year I would’ve took it to the basket, try to draw a foul or force a layup,” Ingram said. “But (now) I tried to visualize other guys on the basketball floor to make the best play possible.”

Considering the final result, the beginning of this game was surprisingly ugly for Ingram and his fellow starters, as Atlanta (10-29) jumped out to an early 10-2 lead.

But the Lakers (12-27) barked back and took a two-point lead out of the first quarter before unleashing a flurry to start the next period.

L.A. began the second quarter with a 21-3 run behind eight points apiece from Ball and Clarkson, who sniped from 3-point range and attacked the basket. The result was a 50-30 lead that the Lakers would never surrender.

Notes
Brook Lopez played stellar defense, including four steals and two blocks. … Julius Randle had 15 points and nine rebounds. … Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 27 points. … A sold-out crowd of 18,997 filled Staples Center.

 

Lakers vuelven al triunfo con paliza ante Atlanta Hawks

LOS ÁNGELES – Siempre que llovió, paró.

Los Lakers redondearon una gran actuación el domingo por la noche, venciendo a los Atlanta Hawks y cortando una racha de nueve derrotas consecutivas. Además, el equipo volvió al triunfo en STAPLES Center por primera vez desde el 21 de noviembre.

El rendimiento fue rutilante tanto desde lo colectivo como lo individual, con el equipo disparando 55.8 por ciento en tiros de cancha – la marca más alta desde el 25 de marzo de 2014 ante Nueva York.

“Se siente bien, obviamente”, reconoció Luke Walton. “Ellos anotaron 133 (puntos), pero igual quedé contento con la defensa que jugamos. Creo que impulsó todo para nosotros esta noche”.

La intensidad defensiva marcó la diferencia. Las rotaciones fueron más eficientes, el esfuerzo mejor canalizado y la ejecución más efectiva. El entrenador de los Lakers avisó que lo hecho en la racha perdedora no fue todo negativo, y aventuró que los suyos solo lograron volver al nivel defensivo de comienzos de temporada.

“No es que esta noche de repente algo fue drásticamente diferente, pero esta noche hicimos un muy buen trabajo de jugar nuestra defensa, marcar, comunicarnos y luego venir y bajar rebotes como equipo, y ser capaces de salir a correr”, explicó. “Así es cuando somos mejores, cuando tenemos desvíos o tapas, y nuestros internos vienen y atrapan el rebote y corremos los carriles”.

Los contragolpes fueron la avenida preferida, con los Lakers imponiéndose 28-0 al medio tiempo. Al final, la cosecha de 42 puntos por esa vía fue la más alta en la historia de la franquicia.

“Creo que mirándolo se puede ver que nos divertimos mucho cuando jugamos así”, dijo Lonzo Ball. “Beneficia mi juego perfectamente. He jugado así toda mi vida, así que esta noche fue definitivamente una buena”.

El base anotó 13 puntos, capturó 10 rebotes y repartió seis asistencias, sumándose además a la lluvia de triples del equipo. Los Lakers conectaron 16 desde larga distancia, la mayor cantidad de la temporada.

Los Lakers además dispararon 20/25 en la línea de tiros libres, para un necesario 80 por ciento que le puso el punto de exclamación a los 132 tantos conseguidos.

En cuanto a lo individual, los aportes llegaron desde todos los rincones. Brandon Ingram brilló con 20 puntos en siete tiros y se lució en la conducción con siete asistencias. Él fue uno de ocho jugadores de los Lakers en dobles dígitos.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (14 puntos), Josh Hart (12) y Jordan Clarkson (18) se combinaron para tirar 8/12 desde larga distancia. En la pintura, Julius Randle (15 puntos y nueve rebotes) y Larry Nance, Jr. (13 puntos y ocho rebotes) también dejaron su huella.

El equipo también repartió 32 asistencias y se impuso por 56-40 en puntos en la pintura.

“Los frenamos e hicimos lo que mejor hacemos – salir en transición”, resumió Caldwell-Pope.

El duodécimo halago de la temporada llegó en buen momento, y según Walton será vital para elevar el ánimo de la plantilla.

“Fue bueno obviamente conseguir esa victoria, tener un poquito de alegría en el vestuario tras el partido, para que cuando volvamos a trabajar mañana no sea el mismo discurso”, dijo Walton.

 

Lakers vs. Hawks: 3 Things to Know (1/7/18)

Here is what you need to know before the Lakers face the Atlanta Hawks.

1) It’s all about defense
The good news: The Lakers have the talent to be one of the league’s best defensive teams. The bad news: They haven’t come close to maximizing that talent lately.

Through the first 29 games of the season, the Lakers ranked eighth in defensive rating (103.3 points per 100 possessions). Across their nine-game losing streak, they are last (114.4).

There are plenty of reasons for this decline, including injuries to two of their best defenders: Lonzo Ball and Brook Lopez. But even with those two back, the Lakers have struggled to regain that defensive tenacity that allowed them to compete against the likes of Golden State, Cleveland and Houston.

On some level, it boils down to simple communication and effort, as the Lakers have been susceptible to backdoor cuts and vulnerable against pick-and-rolls.

If the Lakers are going to snap their slide, they will have to do it on this end of the floor.

2) Expect more Julius in this one
With Andrew Bogut waived on Saturday and Larry Nance Jr. (flu-like symptoms) listed as questionable, that leaves Lopez and Julius Randle as L.A.’s only healthy rotation bigs.

Randle will likely see more minutes with Nance’s ailment probably limiting him if he does play. The Lakers like to use small, pace-pushing lineups, which aren’t as conducive to 7-footers like Lopez, Ivica Zubac and Thomas Bryant.

Randle also has the highest defensive ceiling on the team. He has been the key to the second unit’s switching defense, as opposing guards have typically failed to get past the Lakers’ quick-footed big man.

If he is engaged, the Lakers’ defense because exponentially more difficult to crack. While he is averaging 17.0 points and 10.5 rebounds over the last week, defense is where the Lakers need most of his effort.

3) Atlanta is more dangerous than your typical last-place team
Sure, the Hawks have the worst record of the entire league, but head coach Mike Budenholzer has done a nice job of getting his guys to excel in certain areas.

The Hawks’ pass-heavy offense leads to quality looks, as they rank fourth in the NBA in assists (23.8) and fifth in 3-point percentage (37.9). On the other end, they force the league’s most opponent turnovers (16.6).

Meanwhile, point guard Dennis Schroder is a chore to keep out of the paint, as he scores the second-most points off drives (11.5).

The Lakers will need to take advantage of Atlanta’s spongey defense. The Hawks allow opponents to shoot 47.5 percent from the field (third-worst) and are particularly susceptible on the offensive glass.

Limiting Schroder and efficient offense should lead to a bit of L.A. revenge against Atlanta after that Rams-Falcons playoff game.

La partida de Andrew Bogut le abre la puerta a Ivica Zubac

EL SEGUNDO – La decisión de prescindir de los servicios de Andrew Bogut puede tener repercusiones a lo largo de la plantilla.

Los Lakers cortaron al pivot australiano el sábado por la mañana, abriendo un cupo en su plantilla y liberando minutos en la posición de pivot.

Luke Walton aseguró que los laguneros extrañarán el liderazgo y la veteranía de Bogut, pero a la vez declaró que la plantilla cuenta con suficiente profundidad para suplir su ausencia.

Quien también lo extrañará pero al mismo tiempo podría verse beneficiado es Ivica Zubac.

“Me ayudó muchísimo siendo capaz de hablar croata conmigo, me ayudó mucho”, reconoció. “Es un tipo que jugó en la liga durante 12 años, siendo uno de los mejores centros defensivos. Fue realmente bueno tenerlo y aprendí mucho. Ojalá se hubiera quedado pero así es como funciona”.

El europeo ahondó sobre qué lecciones recibió.

“Me ayudó con la defensa en el poste”, contó. “Esa es uno de los aspectos que tengo que aprender, y me ayudó mucho con eso”.

Zubac, quien promedió 7.5 puntos y 4.2 rebotes en 16.0 minutos en 38 juegos la temporada pasada, encaró el verano anticipando un rol mayor. Sin embargo, las llegadas de Bogut y Brook Lopez lo relegaron un poco.

“Se trató más que nada de otros jugadores jugando bien”, opinó. “Jugamos con muchas alineaciones bajas y esa es una de las razones. Tenemos a Brook que es un muy buen pivot en esta liga, y a Bogut que es uno de los mejores pivots defensivos. Julius estuvo jugando muy bien como ‘5’ también”.

Walton no le dará automáticamente prioridad a Zubac o Thomas Bryant, pero les mandó un mensaje claro:

“Su rol es estar listos cuando los llamemos”, dijo. “Thomas está con la G League y está teniendo mucha buena experiencia. Zu necesita estar listo para cuando su oportunidad llegue. Por ahora es Brook, Julius y Larry (Nance, Jr.) adelante suyo, pero problemas de faltas, o no jugar duro, harán que su momento llegue, y deberá estar listo. Creo que ha hecho un buen trabajo de aceptarlo y seguir mejorando”.

Los Lakers le han pedido al croata esta temporada que expanda su juego.

“Mi juego exterior, trabajar en mi tiro de tres, mi defensa del pick and roll y ser capaz de intercambiar (y marcar) a los guardias cuando sea necesario”, enumeró Zubac. “Ser más agresivo cuando estoy en la cancha, posicionarme fuerte, encarar fuerte y pedir la bola. Jugar defensa fuerte”.

Walton ha quedado conforme con su progresión.

“Está mejorando en esas áreas”, resaltó. “Queremos que nos ayude a abrir la cancha”.

Lo que está claro es que Zubac no ha bajado los brazos pese a la falta de oportunidades con el primer equipo.

“Le dije hoy – lo estaba mirando desde la oficina – que incluso la manera que hace sus trabajos antes de la práctica ha mejorado mucho”, apuntó Walton. “Es más velocidad de juego, aunque sean cortinas ficticias, y el correr a poner las cortinas”.

El croata, selección de segunda ronda del Draft 2016, ha podido demostrar su talento con los South Bay Lakers, promediando 21.4 puntos, 9.1 rebotes y 2.1 tapones en ocho partidos. Su tiro de tres puntos sigue en desarrollo, pero Zubac continúa dominando en la pintura. Su 63.4 por ciento en tiros de cancha lo refleja.

“Fue duro pero jugué en algunos partidos de la G League y definitivamente me ayudó con mi acondicionamiento”, avisó. “También en trabajar en mi juego exterior. Intercambiamos todo en la G League y tuve mucho tiempo para trabajar en eso, y creo que mejoré mucho en esos juegos”.

Con el equipo atravesando un mal momento y con Walton buscando variantes para reanimar la defensa, su oportunidad podría estar a la vuelta de la esquina.

Lakers cortan al pivot Andrew Bogut


EL SEGUNDO – Los Lakers han cortado a Andrew Bogut, según se anunció hoy.

Adquirido por los Lakers el 19 de septiembre, Bogut disputó 24 juegos (cinco como titular), promediando 1.5 puntos (68.0 por ciento en tiros de cancha) y 3.3 rebotes en 9.0 minutos.

La nómina de los Lakers tiene 16 jugadores, incluyendo dos con contratos duales.

Westbrook, Thunder roll to 133-96 win over skidding Lakers

LOS ANGELES — Russell Westbrook, doing his MVP thing back home. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony lighting it up.

All expected.

But where did Terrance Ferguson come from?

Oklahoma City might have found another potential star Wednesday night in Ferguson, a rookie who scored all 24 of his points in the second half to help the Thunder to a 133-96 victory over the skidding Los Angeles Lakers.

Ferguson shot 6 of 9 on 3-pointers and threw down several spectacular dunks as Oklahoma City handed the Lakers their eighth consecutive defeat. He finished 9 of 12 from the field overall.

“Like throwing a pebble in the ocean,” Ferguson said. “Pretty good night.”

It was the first NBA start for Ferguson, whose previous career high was seven points.

“What you guys saw out there tonight, that’s him,” Anthony said. “He’s hardworking — day in, day out. Listens, takes advice. Whatever the coach asks him, he gets it done. What you saw wasn’t a coincidence.”

George, thought to be interested in playing for his hometown Lakers at some point, matched Ferguson with 24 points. Anthony added 21 and Westbrook had 20 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in a successful homecoming.

ADVERTISEMENT

The reigning league MVP was born in Long Beach and went to college at UCLA.

There was little of note for the Lakers to point to. After opening the game with a 10-0 run, they were thoroughly outplayed the rest of the night. The Thunder took control in the second quarter, outscoring Los Angeles 37-18.

“I felt like we came out the way we have been playing all year, which is competitive, in the fight and taking it to them,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Then it felt like we gave in.”

The Lakers were led by rookie Kyle Kuzma’s 18 points. They shot 41.3 percent from the field, while the Thunder shot 60.2 percent.

Oklahoma City led by as many as 39 in the second half as Ferguson began to put on his show.

“We really gave up,” Kuzma said. “They took a little lead and we just went to being selfish on the floor. We didn’t compete on defense and they killed us.”

Oklahoma City finished with 36 assists.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Despite the additions of George and Anthony this season, Westbrook leads the team in points, rebounds and assists. Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said Westbrook is no longer the young player who came up with Kevin Durant trying to establish himself. “He is always trying to do what’s best for the team. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well early (this season),” Donovan said. “He puts a tremendous about of responsibility and ownership on himself as a point guard — that it’s his job to get those guys involved. He was trying to get those guys involved.”

Lakers: Julius Randle, thought to be somewhat undersized as a 6-foot-9 power forward, started his fourth consecutive game at center despite the return of Brook Lopez (ankle). Randle had been getting irregular playing time but in his first three starts averaged 20.7 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field. “Julius has been great all year. He probably deserves more playing time,” Walton said. “He’s obviously been frustrated with me at times but he’s done a really nice job of when he gets called on, does a great job. He produces when he’s out there.” … Rookie point guard Lonzo Ball (shoulder) missed his sixth consecutive game. He is expected to return to practice Thursday.

MORE TO COME

George insisted Ferguson’s big game was no fluke.

“As soon as I got here, I noticed he was a huge talent,” George said. “He was very impressive. His work ethic with his natural talent — the kid is really good. He reminds me of myself a lot early on in the league. Just a sponge trying to take everything in. He’s special.”

Ferguson was just trying to soak in his breakout night.

“To have a game like that was pretty amazing,” he said.

Ferguson, who opted to play in Australia for one year instead of going to college, said he hadn’t had a game like that in a while.

“It felt like I was back in high school,” he said.

Kemba gets 19 in Hornets’ 108-94 rout of slumping Lakers

LOS ANGELES — With three wins in four stops on a leisurely paced road trip, the Charlotte Hornets unexpectedly hit their stride in California.

The Los Angeles Lakers are still stumbling around.

Kemba Walker had 19 points and seven assists, and the Hornets wrapped up a solid trip with their first back-to-back victories since Thanksgiving, beating the spiraling Lakers 108-94 on Friday night.

Jeremy Lamb scored 17 points and Marvin Williams added 16 for the Hornets, who won three of four in the Golden State, including a shocking win over the Warriors to kick off the trip. The Hornets wrapped up the road swing by emphatically avenging their home loss to the Lakers last month.

“We’ll take it all day long,” associate head coach Stephen Silas said. “It was a great trip.”

Six players scored in double figures for Charlotte, which has won four of six overall.

ADVERTISEMENT

Dwight Howard had 15 points and 10 rebounds while the Hornets had little trouble staying ahead of the Lakers after the opening minutes. Charlotte took a 16-point lead in the first half and stretched it to 21 in the third quarter.

“It means a lot, because we’ve really been struggling on the road before this trip,” said Silas, whose team lost 12 of its first 16 road games this season. “To come on the road and get three wins, especially in the West, it’s really big for us. Hopefully we can carry home the momentum from this trip.”

Lonzo Ball had 11 points and five assists in his first game since Dec. 23 for the Lakers, who have lost nine straight since Dec. 20. The rookie point guard missed six games with a sprained left shoulder, and he returned in limited minutes while rebuilding his strength.

The Lakers’ faithful fans are even growing frustrated in what looks like a fifth consecutive losing season. They booed the Lakers after Lamb’s uncontested alley-oop dunk on a fast break put the Hornets up by 25 early in the fourth quarter.

“They got hot and really never stopped making shots,” Brandon Ingram said. “Eventually you get tired of losing. I think a lot of guys on this team are used to winning.”

Ingram had 22 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, but Los Angeles dropped to 1-12 since winning at Charlotte on Dec. 9. The Lakers (11-27) are in last place in the Western Conference.

“Early in the year, if we had off shooting nights like we’ve had a lot of, we were still right in ballgames because we were defending our tails off,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “The biggest thing we need to get back to is playing defense like that. We’re going to get back to being a good defensive team, no matter what it takes.”

TIP-INS

Hornets: Frank Kaminsky scored 12 points. He also got a technical foul in the fourth quarter for arguing a call. … Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 13 points and eight rebounds.

Lakers: Brook Lopez scored 11 points in his second game back from an eight-game absence with a sprained ankle. … Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez watched the game at courtside, as did comedian John Mulaney.

GETTING SHOTS

The Lakers are the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting team, and they went 9 for 36 against the Hornets. At least they improved the NBA’s worst free-throw shooting percentage by going 9 for 12.

HI DWIGHT

Howard received the thunderous boos that have greeted him at Staples Center ever since he completed his single season with the Lakers in 2013 by spurning them to sign a free-agent deal with the Rockets. The Lakers haven’t made the playoffs since he left, enduring the worst half-decade in franchise history. “I don’t think about it,” Howard said. “At some point, they get over it. … I had a good time. I thought I played very well, despite just coming off of back surgery and also tearing a labrum, which I guess means nothing to people. Other than that, it’s always fun to come here and play in LA.”

Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball returns after six-game absence

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball return against Charlotte on Friday night from a shoulder injury.

Ball started despite his left shoulder still feeling sore and not being at 100 percent. The No. 2 overall pick has missed six straight games since getting tangled up with Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic on Dec. 23.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ball, who isn’t sure how his shoulder will be impacted by physical contact that comes with playing in a game, said he doesn’t feel added pressure to stop the Lakers’ eight-game losing streak.

The Lakers need Ball to increase their pace and bolster their declining defense.

“The pressure has been on me since I have been here, so I will look at it the same way,” said Ball, who is averaging 10 points, 7.1 assists, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks. “Numbers don’t lie. It’s been proven that we play a lot better when we are faster and that is what I bring to the table. Hopefully it helps out.”

The Lakers (11-26) have lost eight straight games and 11 of their last 12 overall. The team was trounced 133-96 by the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. That came after an 18-point loss at Minnesota on New Year’s Day.

Head coach Luke Walton was asked if he feels like his job is in jeopardy, despite majority owner Jeanie Buss tweeting support for him on New Year’s Eve with the hashtag “InLukeWeTrust.”

“No, I coach as if it’s not,” Walton said. “As I preach to my players that control what you can control in life, that has to be my philosophy as a coach as well.”

Walton’s team is finally starting to get healthier. Center Brook Lopez returned last game following an eight-game absence due to a sprained ankle and Ball is back.

“[Team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka] have been great, they have been supportive,” Walton said. “They obviously understand where we are at as a team and what we are trying to do and what the big picture is. … [Buss] has been incredible. I’ve talked with her a lot during the season. She has been around this game for a long time. She knows when to be supportive and she has been really great to work with.”