When the Lakers approached the buyout market, they did so with one guiding principle: To add elements to their team that they didn’t already have. Andre Drummond was brought in to give them a huge center with more speed and athletic juice than Marc Gasol, while Ben McLemore was meant to give them one more shooter.
As the injury-riddled Lakers suited up in Brooklyn to play the James Harden-less Nets without LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Wesley Matthews and Gasol, it didn’t really look like Saturday would be the night McLemore and Drummond got to flash those talents. But this team, as they’ve done during nearly this entire injury-riddled stretch, did not roll over. They showed up to fight, and with Drummond dominating the Nets inside and McLemore bombing away from deep, they mercilessly beat the Nets’ asses in an incredible, 126-101 upset victory.
Dennis Schröder scored 19 points in the first half, gamely staying on the court and continuing to attack despite hurting his tailbone in the first quarter. He gave the Lakers some oomph as a scorer to help them stay competitive before getting ejected alongside Nets guard Kyrie Irving — in a questionable call, it should be noted — when both of them were arguing early in the third quarter.
Dennis says all he was doing was asking "what are you talking about" to Kyrie, who was talking trash to him. He didn't know he'd gotten the first double tech, and he says he got the second for waving goodbye to Kyrie after he was kicked out (which is admittedly hilarious)— TV's Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) April 11, 2021
But it was Drummond who showed his true value throughout the game, fighting to give the Lakers’ second chances and pummeling the undersized Nets inside. Brooklyn had no answer for Drummond’s physicality on the glass, and he finished the night with 20 points and 11 rebounds in just 22 minutes.
The impressive stats left Drummond “joining Bob McAdoo as the only Lakers players to log a 20-point, 10-rebound game in 22 minutes or less,” according to Lakers PR. This is exactly the kind of matchup the team wanted him for, and he more than delivered. Drummond is now 3-0 vs. the Nets this season.
Here is video of this momenthttps://t.co/QLg79G2OkM— TV's Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) April 11, 2021
McLemore’s contributions were smaller, but from the end of the third through the start of the fourth he rained threes (finishing with 17 points) to push the Nets back as they attempted a counter-punch, hitting five back-breaking triples to help the Lakers build their lead as the Nets put Kevin Durant back in to try and cut into it. It wasn’t long before Nets head coach Steve Nash called his last remaining star back to the bench, though, throwing in the towel against the Lakers’ joyful and motley crew of reserves.
Ben, on his shooting.— TV's Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) April 11, 2021
"Once I see one go in, it's a wrap... It don't take much for me to get hot."
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was also key, keeping his recent hot streak going to score 14 points while passing Rick Fox for the sixth-most threes in Lakers history. And sophomore standout Talen Horton-Tucker was additionally huge in just the third start of his career while returning from his suspension, giving the Lakers one more dynamic ballhandler to allow them to survive Schröder’s second-half absence. He dropped 14 points and 11 assists.
Kyle Lowry who?
But really, every player on the team deserves credit for this one, as do head coach Frank Vogel and his staff. With the Lakers now 5-6 since LeBron James went down and still boasting the best defense in the NBA over that stretch — a defense that was on full display on Saturday — it’s past time he starts getting in the Coach of the Year discussion for how hard he’s kept this team playing as they fight for seeding, and how prepared he’s kept them for that battle. What a ridiculous, improbable and borderline-unbelievable win.
The Lakers will get Sunday off in New York before taking on the Knicks on Monday. They are expected to have Kuzma back for that one, and in more good news, they might be getting other reinforcements shortly thereafter. Saturday was a good day for the Lakers, in more ways than one.