Austin Reaves became the fifth Lakers rookie to record a triple-double and Malik Monk scored a career-high 41 points to lead the Lakers to a 146-141 victory in Denver to wrap up the regular season.
A game that looked to be getting away from the Lakers in the second half quickly became a close one in the fourth quarter as Monk caught fire, pulling the Lakers to as close as five points. What started as a fitting tribute of one last fake comeback by the Lakers quickly became a real one as Reaves’ steal and layup in the final minute of regulation tied the game at 135-135 and forced overtime.
Reaves completely took over in the extra session, knocking down shots all over the floor including a huge 3-pointer in the final minute to seal the win.
Monk’s 41 points came on 14-25 shooting from the field and 7-14 shooting from the 3-point line. Reaves’ triple-double of 31 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists made him just the fifth Lakers rookie to notch a triple-double, joining Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Lonzo Ball. He also became just the fourth rookie in NBA history with at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a game, joining Blake Griffin, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West.
Wayne Ellington added 18 points off the bench while Stanley Johnson had 15 and Wenyen Gabriel 14 points, respectively.
A barebones but energetic Lakers team came up against a Denver side sitting its starters in the regular season finale as well. Mixed in-between a barrage of whistles was a game that featured fun moments in the first half as the Lakers were able to turn defensive stops into fastbreaks and exciting plays.
But the whistles were constant, including a number of flagrant fouls that also saw Facundo Campazzo ejected after a Flagrant-2 foul for the Nuggets. Both Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel each were called for Flagrant-1 fouls in the opening two quarters as well.
A nice first half ended with the two sides tied at 69 apiece before the Nuggets started to pull away in the third quarter. A mixture of DeMarcus Cousins buckets and four-point plays from Denver allowed them to open a double-digit lead.
As much effort as the Lakers attempted to play with, Denver’s execution on both ends of the court throughout the third quarter. Monk and the Lakers knocked down a handful of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as part of their most notable second-half run to cut the lead to single digits but they never truly got within shouting distance.
But Monk kept scoring and Reaves kept finding him and the Lakers kept it close down the stretch, the latter finding the former for his 10th assist and Monk’s 41st point to pull the Lakers within five points at 123-118. Denver looked to have put the game out of reach in the final minutes but the 3-point barrage continued and five points in the final minute from Reaves, the last two of those being on a layup with just under seven seconds remaining, sent the game to overtime.
That set the table for Reaves to cap off a darling rookie season with the biggest moment of it, leading the shorthanded Lakers to a victory to close out the regular season in dramatic fashion.
The Lakers end the regular season with a 33-49 record.