Brandon Ingram
Andrew D. Bernstein-NBAE via Getty Images

LeBron James celebrated his 34th birthday Sunday but was unable to join the Los Angeles Lakers as they looked to avenge a disappointing loss to the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center late last week.

With James and Rajon Rondo, the Lakers young core has needed to adjust to new roles as more responsibilities were put on their plate. The situation was similar to last season, when Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma were afforded a chance to carry the team.

Each of the three, along with Josh Hart, made contributions in the comeback win over the Kings, but it was Ingram who stood out as the catalyst. He facilitated early and closed for the Lakers in the fourth quarter to seal the 121-114 win.

“I think I just did a better job of getting my teammates involved. I know when they feel comfortable on the basketball floor, it gives us a better chance to win at the end of the game,’ Ingram said.

“I think they’re ready to take the shots and I know they’re comfortable behind the three-point line and getting to the lane. That’s what we saw from Josh Hart and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Kuz is always going to score the basketball, so that’s what everyone did.”

While Ingram ensured involving his teammates, he also reached a comfort level that surpassed other moments in his career. “I think it’s the most comfortable I’ve felt, for sure,” Ingram said. “Me just playing the game the right way; looking for guys, seeing guys.”

Ingram scored seven straight points to pull the Lakers even, then stepped into a 3-pointer that pushed them ahead for good with 2:13 remaining. He finished with 21 points, 7 assists, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.

“It’s the best way to play,” Ingram said of his all-around effort. “I don’t think anyone wants to go in and just force shots or put up 20 or 30 shots and not have his teammates enjoy the win or whatever we have going on.”

Ingram’s 9 assists marked a season high and his most in any game of his career when scoring at least 20 points. Being relied upon as a primary ballhandler, more of the same will be asked of Ingram while James and Rondo remain sidelined.

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