Los Angeles Lakers struggling without Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

With both Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball out, the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t the same team.

On Sunday night after a day of Easter egg hunting, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to “lay an egg” of their own against the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers lost 84-83 in a hard to watch game that the team definitely wanted to win before facing a string of tough opponents to end the season.

The team should have won either way, but the loss could probably be blamed on the Lakers’ continued injuries. Isaiah Thomas missed another game due to his hip surgery that will keep him out for the rest of the season. On top of that, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram both missed the game. Lonzo’s absence was due to a knee contusion while Ingram’s was due to being in concussion protocol.

After the game, Pete Zayas (otherwise known as Laker Film Room) pointed out how helpless the team has seemed playing without both Lonzo and Ingram.

Lonzo and Ingram have both missed several games this year. Luckily for the team, those injuries have for the most part seemed to not overlap, allowing the team to have at least one of the players available. In the 4 games where the two have both missed though, the team has struggled, going 1-3. Two of those losses have come against two of the worst teams in the NBA, the Kings on Sunday, and the Memphis Grizzlies on January 15th. Another loss was against the Timberwolves on Christmas day, when the Lakers lost 121-104. The one game they won was against the Indiana Pacers, behind a 33-point performance from former Laker, Jordan Clarkson.

Scoring Droughts Without Lonzo or Ingram

Without Lonzo and Ingram in the lineup, the Lakers seem to have a hard time scoring. In the 4 games without the two young guys, the team averaged 100.0 PPG prior to playing the Utah Jazz. That is less than their season average, which is 108.2 PPG. They did score 114 in the Grizzlies game and shot 55.0% from the field in the Pacers game, but they seem to go through scoring droughts without the two players.

In the Kings game on Sunday, the Lakers only scored 19 points in the 4th quarter. The Lakers actually only made two field goals in the final 7 minutes of the game. One was a basket from Julius Randle with 6:21 left in the game, and the other was the final three from Brook Lopez with only two seconds left. In addition, they had a 20-point quarter against the Timberwolves and a 18-point quarter against the Pacers.

Brandon Ingram is easily their best 1-on-1 offensive player on the wing. He’s arguably their best offensive player overall, maybe aside from Julius Randle. When the Lakers need a go-to basket, they usually go to Ingram. Those go-to baskets are missed during those scoring droughts they have. Without Lonzo, the Lakers miss his ability to move the ball up and down the court along with his amazing decision-making. Lonzo is a true point guard on offense, making everyone better when he’s on the court. His point guard abilities are definitely missed on the offensive end.

Lack of Depth

Without Lonzo and Ingram, the Lakers have struggled with a lack of bench depth. On Sunday against the Kings, the Lakers only played 9 guys with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma playing 39 minutes. Kyle Kuzma specifically, has to pick up the slack when Ingram isn’t on the floor. In the four games against the Kings, Pacers, Grizzlies, and Timberwolves, Kuzma has averaged 35.2 MPG compared to his 31.1 MPG on the season. In those games where Kuzma has had to play more than usual, he’s averaged 36.9% from the field, while his season average is 45.1%.

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 30: Kyle Kuzma
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 30: Kyle Kuzma /

Lonzo has been the Lakers starting point guard all season when he’s healthy. When Lonzo missed a string of games going into the All-Star break, Ingram actually was the Lakers starting point guard. He thrived in the role, and Luke Walton had seemingly found his go-to point guard with Lonzo hurt. Without both players, the team then has to rely heavily on Tyler Ennis and/or Alex Caruso. Ennis averaged 17 MPG in the 4 games discussed previously while Caruso played 30 minutes in the Kings game and 28 in the Pacers game. Ennis and Caruso average 11.0 and 14.3 MPG on the season, respectively. They definitely aren’t comfortable with the extra minutes.

Ennis has been underwhelming all season, having the 2nd worst offensive rating of Lakers who have played 30 games. Caruso is right behind him, with the 3rd worst. It’s hard to blame Caruso, as he has outperformed many people’s expectations of him. He was mostly expected to only play on the South Bay Lakers this season. Ennis on the other hand, went into this season as the Lakers’ backup point guard. There’s a reason why Lonzo has led the Lakers this season with 34.2 MPG. Walton doesn’t want Ennis on the floor much.

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It’s unclear how much Lonzo and Ingram will play in the Lakers final few games. The Lakers will most likely continue to struggle without one of the two players, while they will definitely struggle without both of them. It’s unfortunate timing, as the team was probably hoping to finish the season strong to enter this summer’s free agency with some promise to show to players like Paul George and LeBron James. Injuries happen to all teams though, and the Lakers will have to soldier on with or without the two.