Starting a rookie to send a veteran to the second unit and benching another veteran to give minutes to two younger centers sounded like moves designed to develop talent, rather than win games. So, when the Los Angeles Lakers opted to start Brandon Ingram and Tarik Black in place of Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov at Madison Square Garden on Monday, what came next seemed all the more shocking.
A team that had not won a road game in nearly two months, the Los Angeles Lakers, led the New York Knicks by 27 points at Madison Square Garden 20 minutes into the contest. With a new-look, young lineup, the Lakers comfortably blew out the Knicks on their home court, 121-107.
Ingram finished the night as one of seven Lakers to score in double figures, while Black finished with the best on-court plus/minus rating, i.e. the Lakers were +34 points while Black was on the court. Black's presence on the boards had a notable impact, and the Lakers out-rebounded the Knicks 55-40 in the game.
The only tenured veteran in the starting lineup, Nick Young, finished with 17 points in 21 minutes to lead the starting unit, while sixth man Lou Williams finished with 22 points to lead the team in scoring.
Power forward Julius Randle also returned to the starting lineup for LA following a bout with pneumonia and finished as one of the Lakers' starters to score in double figures. However, the energetic and inspiring play of Ingram sparked the Lakers early and often on Monday at the "mecca of basketball."
Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell also continued his recent uptick in passing production since returning for a knee and calf injury. The 20-year-old point guard had never crossed the 8-assist mark prior to his injury, but that time on the sidelines appears to have triggered a change. Russell entered the night averaging 9.0 assists over his previous three contests and finished the night with more assists, six, than field goal attempts, four. Russell only featured for 20 minutes in the lopsided victory.
After jumping out to a 27-point lead in the second quarter, Knicks star Carmelo Anthony inspired a 15-4 run to trim the difference to only 16 points at the intermission. Anthony finished with 26 points in 37 minutes, but his input did not have any notable impact on the outcome of the game.
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Despite Anthony's second-quarter heroics, the Lakers would again taste a 27-point lead in the third quarter and managed to maintain a 24-point lead entering the fourth quarter. The Knicks did claw back to within 14 points with three minutes to play, but the comeback did not gain nearly as much momentum as chants for Lakers substitute Metta World Peace in his home town.
Eventually, Lakers coach Luke Walton called upon World Peace and the 37-year-old took the opportunity to go one-on-one against Anthony and score over the Knicks' star. The crowd went nuts. The final buzzer sounded moments later with LA claiming a 121-107 victory. With the victory, the Lakers improved to 18-36 on the season, meaning they had now surpassed their win total from a season ago.
Notes: Larry Nance Jr. finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds to record the only double-double in the game.