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After big trade, Lakers top short-handed Thunder

Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

It's working.

Before the game Thursday, Walton said he wasn't sure whether the team would keep playing well without key pieces like Clarkson and Nance -- but he knew one way they could.

"We'll find out. Our guys had definitely found a nice groove together, counting on each other. But, this is part of it. Whether we struggle or not until we figure it out, that's part of the learning curve too," Walton said. "We've been having success because we've been competing our tails off, trusting each other, making extra passes. And we can do that no matter who is playing. That's more of a mind-set and an attitude to have.

"I would expect that to carry over."

Thursday, it did -- and soon, it'll be on the Lakers and their players to figure out whether it can carry over to a team with George or LeBron James or both.

If the current roster is auditioning for 2018's top free agents, of whom George is near the top of the list, they're beginning to leave strong impressions.

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How could you see Brandon Ingram, at 6 feet 9 and 190 pounds of arms and legs, handling the ball and running the offense like a point guard and not take notice? How could you not notice how rookies Hart and Kyle Kuzma look like two more draft picks deep in the first round that the Lakers have hit on? How could you see Julius Randle continue this run of the best basketball of his professional career and ignore it?

Thursday, Ingram had 19 points and six assists, doing that with George, one of the premiere defenders in the NBA, draped all over him. Kuzma had 16 points off the bench and Hart had 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

And Randle, who had his toughness and physicality questioned in a loss to the Thunder on Jan. 17, pushed and shoved his way for 17 points and six rebounds.

Add in a team-high 20 from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the Lakers had more than enough firepower to blow out the Thunder -- especially considering their defense held Oklahoma City to only 54 points in the final three quarters.

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