The Los Angeles Lakers got a pair of breakout performances from their high draft picks, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, in their win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. But it wasn’t just those two that stepped up. The team was also treated to a few meaningful minutes from the 30th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Josh Hart. And by a few minutes, I mean a whole bunch.
Hart played a game-high 43 minutes in Dallas, including the entire second half, and he made the most of each one, putting up 14 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and a career-high five steals while posting the highest box plus-minus of the contest (+16).
As if that wasn’t enough, Hart also posted the highest defensive rating of the night (86.3) for an overall net rating of +19.1. Did I mention he did all of this on the second night of a back-to-back?
It was an impressive game from the 23-year-old, and one that was long overdue. In the three games leading up to Monday’s game, Hart was averaging 9.7 points on 25.6 percent shooting from the field.
Following the Lakers’ win, Hart explained to Mike Trudell of Spectrum SportsNet what motivated him to have a big night:
“We needed a win. I was frustrated the last three or four games with myself and how I played because I didn’t give this team energy and I didn’t give them a spark, so that was the only thing I came into this game thinking.
“I didn’t care about shooting, I didn’t care about making shots and if they went in — touches, play calls, nothing like that. I controlled what I could control, and that was my energy, being a little junkyard dog out there and just helping this team get a win.”
His selflessness and effort was an integral part of the Lakers’ run in the second half, where they held the Mavericks to just 30 points. For context to how low that is, the Lakers allowed 33 points in the first quarter alone.
Hart praised his teammates for tightening things up on the defensive end in the second half, saying that the Lakers are as good as any team in the Western Conference when they’re engaged defensively:
“When we’re locked in defensively, we’re a heck of a team even without those guys ... We know we’re young — some of that youth showed the last several games — but we showed that when we’re locked in ... and our focus and attention to detail is turned all the way up, we’re a good team whether we have ‘Bron or Rondo or whoever.
“We’ve just got to know going forward that if we have the attention to detail, that tenacity and that energy, we’re going to be a tough team to beat in the west.”
While their record without LeBron James and Rajon Rondo might not reflect it, the Lakers have actually maintained their status as a top-tier defensive team in the NBA. Over their last seven games, they’re ranked fourth with a defensive rating of 104.3. On the season, they’re ranked eighth.
It’s their offense that has doomed them during this stretch of games, but that promises to get better now that Kyle Kuzma is back in the mix.
The Lakers will play at least one more game without James, whose groin injury will be re-evaluated on Friday. If they can show that same intensity and discipline on defense against their upcoming opponents, they could get a head start on their climb back up the standings.