A very shorthanded Lakers squad gave one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams everything they could handle on Wednesday, and got their biggest win of the season in the process. Missing nearly half of their roster and with just 9 eligible players from the full-time roster, L.A. beat the Miami Heat 120-117 in their second straight overtime victory to move to 7-5.
Russell Westbrook had one of his best games of the season, recording a triple-double with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists. He came up especially huge down the stretch with 10 fourth-quarter points, capped off by two huge midrange jumpers to put the Lakers up 112-110 with less than a minute remaining, although he missed a potential game-winning three-pointer in the Lakers’ last possession of regulation.
Anthony Davis had a relatively quiet game with only 24 points and 13 rebounds while going up against two very well-regarded interior defenders in Bam Adebayo and P.J. Tucker, but gave the Lakers enough on the defensive end to help the team get by while so banged up.
The Lakers were down six players on Wednesday: Trevor Ariza, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, Austin Reaves, Rajon Rondo and of course LeBron James, though Lakers fans got some good news in James’ case earlier on Wednesday. Of the remaining five, Ariza, Horton-Tucker and Nunn have yet to play this season and likely won’t for a while, and Rondo and Reaves are day-to-day with mild hamstring issues.
In their absence, Malik Monk, Avery Bradley and Wayne Ellington all had possibly their finest games of the season. The three veteran guards combined for 56 points—Bradley with 17 while starting alongside Westbrook, and Monk with a season-high 27 off the bench to go with Ellington’s 12.
Monk in particular was phenomenal, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot to go 10-13 from the field and 4-7 from three. He outdueled fellow bench sparkplug Tyler Herro, who finished with an impressive 27 points and gave the Lakers fits all night. The Heat also suffered an injury-related blow in the first half when Jimmy Butler exited with a twisted ankle, only playing 12 minutes on the night, and missed multiple open shots and free throws down the stretch to help the Lakers close things out.
This is without a doubt the most impressive win of the 2021-22 Lakers season. Sure, they had to go to overtime again, but the Heat — even without Butler — are a much more impressive and dangerous team than, say, the San Antonio Spurs or Charlotte Hornets. Add in the fact that L.A. was missing so many key players, and this is the most encouraging performance the team has had all year. They’ll look to keep the momentum going on Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. PT on Spectrum Sportsnet.