LOS ANGELES (AP) — Halfway through another mostly miserable season, the young Los Angeles Lakers have put together their longest winning streak of the year.
Coach Luke Walton is eager to see whether they can maintain the momentum that’s making their future look slightly less bleak.
Brandon Ingram scored 26 points, Lonzo Ball added 18 and the Lakers held off the short-handed San Antonio Spurs 93-81 on Thursday night for their third straight victory.
Larry Nance Jr. had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers (14-27), who blew an early 19-point lead before running away in the fourth quarter with a poise they’ve shown only fleetingly this season. Los Angeles had lost nine straight before its current surge.
“We responded like a team that’s failed a lot, and kind of got sick of it,” Walton said. “We’re seen that point many times this year where we’re playing well, we have a lead, the other team goes on a run and then we stall out in the second half. I thought our players did a great job of coming together.”
Ingram had an aggressive offensive game, and Ball contributed 10 rebounds, six assists and four 3-pointers as Los Angeles also snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Spurs at Staples Center since April 2013.
The Lakers (14-27) appear to be midway through their fifth consecutive non-playoff season, but their entertaining style occasionally produces great moments, such as the dunk thrown down by Nance on a less-than-ideal pass from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
“We’re focused on defense, effort and energy, really,” Nance said of the winning streak. “I don’t know what it was, but it was about time we got out of that rut.”
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half for the Spurs, who committed 21 turnovers while playing without injured starters Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Danny Green.
Bryn Forbes scored 18 points and Dejounte Murray added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“That was a pathetic performance by our team, and a lot of the reason for it was the way the Lakers played,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “They were very physical, much more physical than we were. Their desire was at a totally different level than ours was. … Just effort and will. I thought in that sense, we were pathetic.”
Spurs: Pau Gasol had nine points and 12 rebounds in the 37-year-old Spaniard’s latest return to the city where he won two championships alongside Kobe Bryant, whose two retired jersey numbers now hang in the Staples Center rafters.
Lakers: They made an early 25-3 run on the way to a 37-18 lead. Ball hit three 3-pointers and didn’t miss a shot in the first half. … Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played a solid defensive game and contributed down the stretch with 10 points and four rebounds.
Leonard missed his third straight game with a left shoulder strain, and Parker sat after spraining his right ankle in Sacramento on Monday. Green missed his fifth consecutive game with a groin strain.
Veteran Rudy Gay also sat out his seventh straight game with right heel bursitis, leaving the Spurs short-handed in the last stop on a three-game trip down the West Coast.
Before the game, Popovich didn’t mince words when asked about the recent criticism of Walton from Lithuanian basketball power broker LaVar Ball: “I think the first thing to look at is the substance and gravitas of the source that speaks, and just stopping at that point would tell you that you don’t need to listen or go any further. It’s just another fan in the peanut gallery with an opinion, which is meaningless.”
TRADE ME NOT
Popovich also revealed that Aldridge requested a trade last summer after a rough season. The coach talked the star big man out of his feelings after a few dinners and meetings. “I was very candid with him,” Popovich said. “I told him, `I’d be happy to trade you. You get me a talent like Kevin Durant, and I’ll drive you to the airport. I’ll pack your bags. And I will drive you there, get you on the plane and get you seated.’ He laughed, (and) I said, `But short of that, I’m your best buddy, because you’re here for another year, and you ain’t going nowhere. Because we’re not going to get for you talent-wise what we would want, so let’s figure this thing out.’ And we did.”
Spurs: Return home to face the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
Lakers: Open a three-game road trip at the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.