Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram is hoping to shine for the Lakers during LeBron James' injury absence. In this picture, Ingram #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots a three-point shot against the Golden State Warriors during the first half of their NBA Basketball game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, Dec. 25, 2018. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Brandon Ingram understands that LeBron James’ injury is an “opportunity” for him to step up and play a more important role in the team in the upcoming matches and it started with Thursday night’s game against the Sacramento Kings, which the Los Angeles Lakers lost 117-116 after leading for most of the game.

James is expected to miss several games after sustaining a significant groin strain during the Lakers’ win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. It brought an end to a run of 116 consecutive regular season games for the three-time NBA champion.

The former Cleveland Cavaliers star has led from the front since joining the Lakers earlier this summer and is averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game. And after a slow start, the Lakers have picked up the pace and are now fifth in the Western Conference with a 20-15 record.

Luke Walton’s team will have to adapt to playing without their talisman in their upcoming games and Ingram has taken it upon himself to help the team with better performances in offense and defense.

“It’s an opportunity,” Ingram said Thursday, as quoted on Silver Screen and Roll. “It’s an opportunity for me to go out there and play my game a little bit more. I think I’m going to be a little bit more ball-dominant, cutting off the basketball. I have to play even better defense and be on the help side on the defensive end. So it’s a chance for me to just up my game a little bit.”

Apart from James, the Lakers will also be without veteran point guard Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee. And on Thursday night, the starting lineup included all the Lakers draft picks with an average age under 24 years old.

Ingram is certain the young team, who now have one more years’ experience behind them, can continue to push on and try and win basketball games without their experienced stars.

“I think it’s just like our team from last year,” the Lakers small forward added. “We just have a lot of young guys that’s grown in this league, I think. We’re a year older now so we’ve seen some things and we’ve experienced some things, so we just go out here and play our basketball games. We know what to do and we’ve seen a lot of things so we just continue to push it to the edge.”

It looked to have been going well as the Lakers led by over 10 points going into the fourth quarter, but the young team failed to bring it home as the Kings stepped up their game in the final quarter to win 117-116 which was aided by a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Kyle Kuzma top scored for the Lakers with 33 points, while Ingram was second on the list with 22 points with Lonzo Ball adding 20. Ivica Zubac managed just six points while James’ replacement Josh Hart scored just 10 in 33 minutes.