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Lakers snap 9-game skid with win over Hawks

Lonzo Ball of the Los Angeles Lakers, was under scrutiny after his father’s latest remarks that coach Luke Walton had lost the confidence of his players © GETTY/AFP/File / Sean M. Haffey

LOS ANGELES, United States, Jan 8The Los Angeles Lakers snapped a nine-game NBA losing streak on Sunday with a 132-113 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Brandon Ingram scored 20 points to lead the Lakers, who hadn’t won a game since a December 20 victory over the Houston Rockets.

The victory quieted some of the noise growing around the embattled young team, including comments by outspoken basketball patriarch LaVar Ball — father of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball — who told ESPN that coach Luke Walton had lost the confidence of his players.

“I would disagree with that,” Walton said at shootaround on Sunday morning, telling reporters that even as the defeats piled up his players were playing hard.

The difference against the Hawks, Walton said after the much-needed win, was a defensive commitment that set up the Lakers’ transition offense.

“I think it triggered everything for us tonight,” Walton said. “Once we got engaged and we were crashing back on the glass and able to get out and run … it was good to see the guys get back to that mode where defense anchors what we do offensively.”

Lonzo Ball, playing just his second game after missing six with a shoulder sprain, was under scrutiny after his father’s latest remarks.

Head coach Luke Walton of the Los Angeles Lakers said he wasn’t expecting smooth sailing for his young players, but insisted their growing pains wouldn’t tear them apart © GETTY/AFP/File / Harry How

He scored 13 points and pulled down 10 rebounds while handing out six assists.

When he departed the game with 2:53 remaining, along with Kyle Kuzma, Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle they were cheered by fans — a turnaround from the boos heard during a loss to Charlotte on Friday.

At 12-27 the Lakers remain at the bottom of the Western Conference. But they avoided matching the longest losing streak in franchise history.

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Walton, while encouraged, said he wasn’t expecting smooth sailing for his young players, but he said insisted their growing pains wouldn’t tear them apart.

“The team’s been fine,” he said. “We’ve got guys and a group that are still figuring things out. It’s nothing new when young teams that are trying to get better go through hard times.”

– Ageless Ginobili –

Western Conference contenders San Antonio and Oklahoma City both endured defeats on the road.

In Portland, CJ McCollum flashed to the basket and floated in the game-winner with 5.9 seconds left as the Trail Blazers edged the San Antonio Spurs 111-110.

LaMarcus Aldridge had chance to answer for the Spurs, but his mid-range jump shot bounced off the back rim at the buzzer.

The Spurs were missing four regulars, including Tony Parker and All-Star Kawhi Leonard, who has a partial tear of a muscle in his left shoulder, according to San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.

Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs chipped in 26 against the Trail Blazers to become at 40, the oldest player to score 20-plus points in back-to-back games © GETTY/AFP/File / RONALD MARTINEZ

Portland were also short-handed, as point guard Damian Lillard was a late scratch with a calf injury.

The close contest featured four lead changes in the final 2:48.

Aldridge led the Spurs with 30 points and 40-year-old Argentinian veteran Manu Ginobili chipped in 26 to become the oldest player to score 20-plus points in back-to-back games.

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In Phoenix, the Suns withstood a triple-double from NBA Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-100.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 26 points and forward TJ Warren added 23.

Phoenix also got a key contribution from 20-year-old Croatian Dragan Bender off the bench as he produced a career high of 20 points, including six three-pointers.

Westbrook posted his 14th triple-double of the season with 26 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds but the Thunder never led after the first quarter.

In Dallas, the New York Knicks thwarted a late surge by the Mavericks to triumph 100-96, snapping a three-game losing streak.

Kristaps Porzingis led the Knicks with 29 points and Jarrett Jack’s 12 included a floater with 31.2 seconds left that broke a 94-94 tie and put the New York ahead for good.

The Knicks had led by 13 with 4:49 left to play only for the Mavs to roar back, but New York held on to claim just their fourth road win of the season.

“We weathered the storm,” Jack said. “We had some hiccups throughout it, but for the most part we weathered the storm.”

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