A pass­ing feat for team­mates

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Ta­nia Gan­guli ta­nia.gan­[email protected]­times.com Twit­ter: @tani­a­gan­guli

James and Ball have 11 as­sists apiece in the loss to the Spurs.

SAN ANTONIO — Be­fore Fri­day night it had been more than five years since the Lak­ers had two play­ers with dou­ble-digit as­sists in the same game.

On March 30, 2013, Pau Ga­sol had 10 as­sists and Kobe Bryant had 14 against the Sacra­mento Kings.

Fri­day night in the Lak­ers’ 133-120 loss to the Spurs, Lonzo Ball and LeBron James each had 11.

“It’s be­cause we’re nice!” James said over Ball’s scrum, over­hear­ing a ques­tion about that ac­com­plish­ment.

Said Ball: “It’s our team­mates. You can pass the ball all you want, but if they don’t score you don’t get the as­sist. Guys are run­ning the lanes, hit­ting shots and that’s how we got to those num­bers.”

James’ and Ball’s play­mak­ing abil­i­ties be­came that much more im­por­tant for the Lak­ers on Fri­day in Bran­don In­gram’s ab­sence. In­gram sprained his an­kle dur­ing the first quar­ter of Wed­nes­day night’s game against the Spurs at Sta­ples Cen­ter and did not ac­com­pany the Lak­ers on their trip.

In his ab­sence, four of the Lak­ers’ starters played at least 36 min­utes with Kyle Kuzma lead­ing the way with 38 min­utes, 42 sec­onds of play­ing time. Ball was next with 37:53.

“Those guys al­ways have ex­panded roles,” James said.

“I don’t think they had to pick up their roles. Kuz and Zo, that’s what they do. They have to be more than what their role is.

“That’s just what they are and they’re OK with it. The guys just have to step up in their ab­sence — in BI’s ab­sence.” Un­blocked

Lak­ers cen­ter JaVale McGee takes pride in his abil­ity to block shots. But the Spurs have two play­ers who rely heav­ily on their mid-range game in De­Mar DeRozan and LaMar­cus Aldridge. That gave the Lak­ers fewer op­por­tu­ni­ties to block shots.

“It’s def­i­nitely frus­trat­ing just be­cause, like you said, I’m a shot blocker,” McGee said.

“But es­pe­cially with San Antonio, they know that so they’re work­ing more of a mid-range game rather than try­ing to get to the rim ev­ery time or keep­ing me out of the paint, which is lim­it­ing my blocked shots.”

Tough at home

Af­ter the game, the Lak­ers made their way to Mem­phis where they will play the Griz­zlies on Satur­day night.

Mem­phis is 15-9 over­all and has gone 8-3 at home this sea­son.

“I ex­pect them to play the way they’ve been play­ing for years,” James said. “They added a rookie who’s very good in Jaren Jack­son Jr. They got a guy in Kyle An­der­son from this team here who’s very good. And Mike Con­ley’s healthy. We all know when Mike Con­ley’s healthy it changes the dy­namic of their team . ... He just does so much for them of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively. He’ll be ready to go.”

TONIGHT

AT MEM­PHIS When: 5 PST On the air: TV: Spec­trum Sport­sNet; Ra­dio: 1330, 710 Up­date: Mem­phis will also be on the sec­ond night of a back-to-back. The Griz­zlies beat the Pel­i­cans in New Or­leans on Fri­day night.

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