The Lakers needed this.
It was yet another close win. But this time around, the Lakers held on as they get a victory over the Orlando Magic, 111-105.
The bad starts are becoming more terrifying, though. Orlando came out firing from three and got off to a 20-11 spurt. But then the Lakers countered big.
L.A. made three after three after three as they went on a huge 36-11 overall run to take a 47-31 lead. One of the threes came from this fancy play.
But Paolo Banchero (who only scored four points on their first match-up) rallied them back as we saw more of what the rest of the league has been seeing: a devastating offensive player that has made him the favorite for the Rookie of the Year. The Magic scored 12 unanswered points.
Banchero, however, was countered by an unlikely… well, that’s probably not the right word because we see such great play out of him… player in Austin Reaves. He finished the half with 16 points.
The third quarter was looking to be yet another disaster as the Magic nicely cut the deficit down to 70-69. But Reaves saved their behinds again as he converted a three-point play to stop the rally. An Anthony Davis dunk and another Reaves three-point play made it an 8-0 run to lead comfortably by 9. Still, the Magic made consecutive buckets to close the third as Goga Bitadze made a putback after a rebound off a Franz Wagner free throw (which was preceded by a basket). The Lakers led, 84-81, going into the final quarter.
The Magic tied it at 101 late in the game. And then Franz Wagner tied it again at 103 after Reaves free throws. Reaves, however, countered with a pull-up jumper that got a shooter’s roll. The Magic tried to answer but Paolo Banchero missed a lay-up (he got a technical foul after complaining). Austin Reaves finished off the Magic with multiple trips to the line. He scored the last 10 points for the Lakers.
I won’t go so far to say that Austin Reaves saved the season (these other West teams are also losing) but he definitely saved the game from potential disaster. Reaves scored a career-high 35 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists. He also shot a ridiculous 16 for 18 from the line. Look at him get all the superstar calls!
D’Angelo Russell quietly bounced back with 18 points though his last three-pointer was pretty loud in the fourth quarter as it gave them a 6-point lead late. Anthony Davis didn’t have a strong offensive game (15 points) but he grabbed 11 boards and blocked four shots. Wenyen Gabriel deserves a shoutout for all the hustle plays (6 points, 8 rebounds). And Rui Hachimura provided a fail-safe in the midrange in the second half.
Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner each had 21 points to lead the Magic but Banchero was noticeably stifled in the second half. Cole Anthony made some big shots for the Magic in the second half to finish with 17 points. Wendell Carter, Jr. (16 points, 11 boards) and Markelle Fultz (12 points, 10 assists) each finished with double-doubles.
But Reaves has been potent all season. He was pretty timid in his rookie year (as most rookies are, really) but we could all see his game. Now, in his sophomore season, he’s gotten to the point where he just doesn’t give a sh… and takes whatever he could. He had four three-point plays (“and ones” as the kids call them) and the Lakers needed every one of them. Hell, the Lakers needed every one of Austin’s 35 points in that game. You just see the improvement in his game and in his confidence. A lot of fans see him as an easy meme but we can also see that he got game. I’ve said in the past that he probably shouldn’t be a primary playmaker but these last few games have shown that maybe he can be that.
This win brought them back into the play-in picture by percentage points. Minnesota and the Lakers are slotted into the 9th and 10th spots with a 35-37 record (.4861 percentage) while the Utah Jazz have been left out at 34-36 (.4857 percentage). The Oklahoma City Thunder also won, though, so they’re in the 8th seed at 35-36. We’re deep into March and we’re still in this mess in the West.
The Lakers have a huge game (well, every game is huge) on Wednesday as they take on the Phoenix Suns. They won’t have Kevin Durant as he’s nursing a bum ankle. Yet another chance for the Lakers, right? This might really come down to the wire for Los Angeles.
Forget what happened in the past and focus on wins that are still possible. Like this one against Orlando.