The Los Angeles Lakers are still without superstar LeBron James, but Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball are beginning to step up in his absence. Ingram and Ball will try to guide the Lakers to a second consecutive victory when they host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
Los Angeles dropped five of six games after James (groin) went down on Christmas Day, leading to coach Luke Walton publicly challenging Ingram and Ball to play with more "passion." The pair combined for 13 points on 5-of-20 shooting in a 108-86 loss at Minnesota on Sunday but heard Walton's comments and spoke to each other after that dud, leading to a combined 50 points on 20-of-36 shooting in a 107-97 victory at Dallas to finish off the two-game road trip on Monday. The Pistons could stand to play with more passion themselves after dropping 14 of the last 18 games but are not ready to declare themselves out of the race in the Eastern Conference. "Believe me, we are nowhere near throwing in the towel yet," Detroit coach Dwane Casey told reporters. "Starting over, I have done that before and it took a little while. We are further ahead than that, but we are not a finished product and believe me we are not out of the playoff race yet, by any means. So, I haven't even thought about that."
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, FS Detroit, Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles) LINE: Lakers -1.5
ABOUT THE PISTONS (17-21): Power forward Blake Griffin is playing in Los Angeles for the first time since the Los Angeles Clippers traded him away last season but is more concerned with the way his current team is playing. Detroit, which is beginning a four-game road trip against the Lakers, built first-quarter leads at home against Utah and San Antonio in the last two games only to falter in the second period and go on to lose. "It's been the last two games," Griffin told reporters. "I don't think that's our calling card. But there's nothing wrong with getting off to a hot start. I think our focus and intensity level has been very high the past two games and we need to be able to sustain that for a lot longer. We've just got to find a way, whether it's getting rest earlier or whatever it is, we've got to find a way."
ABOUT THE LAKERS (22-19): Ingram scored a season-high 29 points in Monday's triumph and made it clear that he and his coach have a strong relationship. "Me and Luke have numerous talks about numerous things," Ingram told reporters. "I think it's always motivational talks to see what I can do on the basketball floor. It's not just what he said to y'all, it's constant talk of how I can be better, how I can be more consistent. Whatever it is, I just try to take the challenge. Just try to be better." James will not play on Wednesday and remains out indefinitely, though he is expected to be examined again on Friday.
1. Pistons SF Stanley Johnson is 2-of-12 from the floor over the last three games, including 0-of-7 from 3-point range.
2. Lakers PF Kyle Kuzma (back) returned from a two-game absence on Monday and managed 13 points on 4-of-20 shooting.
3. The teams split two meetings last season, with each protecting home court.
PREDICTION: Lakers 116, Pistons 107 Bet Now
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