LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Young stars Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball answered Los Angeles coach Luke Walton’s call for more fire on Monday, leading the Lakers to a 107-97 NBA victory over the Mavericks in Dallas.
Ingram scored 29 points, Ball added 21 and the Lakers erased a 13-point halftime deficit to halt a three-game skid and post just their second victory in seven games since superstar LeBron James suffered a groin injury in a Christmas Day victory over two-time defending champions Golden State.
Walton had called out Ingram and Ball after a disappointing 108-86 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.
Although the Lakers again found themselves in an early hole in Dallas, Walton said he saw more energy from the opening tip off, and when his team played smarter in the second half they were able to turn things around.
“I was actually very pleased with our competitive spirit in that first half,” Walton said. “I thought guys we’re giving it their all.”
Walton said he urged his players to “mentally turn it up” in the second half, and they responded by outscoring the Mavericks 32-13 in the third quarter.
“We knew that was our mistakes,” Josh Hart said of the halftime deficit. “We had a couple of offensive rebounds that we gave up that should have had, a couple of miscommunications in the first half that we cleaned up in the second half. It was a good mental game for us.”
In Milwaukee, the Bucks rallied from a 62-58 halftime deficit to beat the Utah Jazz 114-102.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points, Malcolm Brogdon added 21 and the Bucks clamped down defensively in the second half to bounce back from a loss to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.
“The big thing that stands out to me is after (allowing) 62 points in the first half to hold them to 40 in the second,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We weren’t very happy at halftime with our defense.
“The way we improved and got better in the second half gave us a chance to find a way offensively in the fourth quarter.”
Thon Maker scored a season-high 15 points off the bench for the Bucks, who trailed by three going into the fourth quarter.
Maker’s dunk knotted the score at 92-92 with 8:51 left to play. Antetokounmpo’s driving layup and ensuing foul shot gave Milwaukee a three-point lead and they wouldn’t trail again.
Kyrie Irving returned from injury to lead the Boston Celtics with 17 points in a 116-95 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Irving, who missed two games with an eye injury, led eight Celtics players in double figures with Jayson Tatum adding 16 points and Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart all chipping in 12 as Boston notched a third straight win.
Boston’s top scorer Irving hadn’t played since both of his eyes were injured in a clash with Marco Belinelli in a New Year’s Eve game against San Antonio.
Up by 11 at halftime, the Celtics saw that lead dwindle to five points early in the third, but they regained their offensive rhythm to rebuild the advantage.
“Thirty-seven assists tonight, it’s fun when we play like that,” Hayward said.
San Antonio’s longtime coach Gregg Popovich tied Jerry Sloan for third place on the NBA’s all-time coaching wins list with the Spurs’ 119-107 victory over the Pistons in Detroit.
DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points with nine assists and seven rebounds as the Spurs notched a fifth straight win and their 13th in 16 games.
Popovich now has 1,221 coaching victories, tied with Sloan and trailing only Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens.
In New Orleans, Anthony Davis scored 36 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked three shots as the New Orleans Pelicans downed the struggling Memphis Grizzlies 114-95.
It was another big night from reigning NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden, who scored 32 points and dished out 14 assists in the Houston Rockets’ 125-113 victory over Western Conference leaders Denver.
Clint Capela added a career-high 31 points for the Rockets, who stretched their home winning streak to 10 games.