The Lakers got their two stars back and did everything they could to lose this game, but found a way to win in overtime when Russ took over and helped beat the NY Knicks on the second night of a back-to-back 129-123 on Tuesday.
The Lakers got great performances from a handful of players to close out the Knicks OT. Rui Hachimura was spectacular in his second start as a Laker. He ended the night with 19 points and 9 rebounds. LeBron, who was questionable entering the game, messed around and got a triple-double — and his ninth assist of the night put him past Steve Nash making him the fourth on the all-time assists list. AD is getting his wind back and almost had a double-double with 27 points and 9 rebounds in the win.
The Lakers improve to 24-28 on the season and are now 1-2 on this East Coast road trip.
With Patrick Beverley out, Darvin Ham finally opted out of his small-guard lineup and went with a bigger lineup to start against the Knicks with Dennis Schröder, Troy Brown Jr., LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Rui Hachimura. So how did the big lineup fare?
They came out with an 11-5 lead using the big lineup and took control of the game early as both teams struggled early shooting, but the Knicks were just a bit worse shooting 40% from the field in the first.
The more Rui plays, the better he looks. Rui had 7 points in the opening quarter running the floor, converting on his free throws and grabbing a pair of rebounds.
Last night, Max Christie’s play was uninspired, and I had doubts Darvin would give him any run against the Knicks. Not only did he play, but he was also brought in at the 3:03 min mark of the opening frame. He immediately made a positive impact, forcing Immanuel Quickley into a tough shot while the shot clock winded down, then hit a corner three on the offensive side of the ball. He ended the night with 6 points and a surprising 5 fouls in 13 minutes of play. Clearly, he’s still getting the rookie treatment from the refs.
With a five-point lead on the road, the Lakers looked to close the first half with an advantage. New York had different ideas and came out with an 8-2 run.
The quarter continued to be a back-and-forth affair and by the end of it, the Knicks had the slimmest lead possible up by one.
The second half was more of the same with both teams being evenly matched. There were 11 lead changes in the third quarter alone and everything was virtually even after three. One rebound separated both teams, the Lakers had a three-point advantage and both teams shot under 30% from three.
In the fourth, Darvin Ham finally realized playing Thomas Bryant would be a good idea. He scored 4 points in the quarter and ignited the team with his finishes at the rim.
The rest of the team got hot from the field and went a shocking 8-8 to start the fourth, but, as they’ve done all night, the Knicks stayed in the game. However, LeBron finally gave the Lakers some breathing room by hitting a big-time three with 1:42 left to give the Lakers a six-point edge. NY responded with a Quentin Grimes jumper and a Jalen Brunson floater to have the game all tied up at 114 with 24 seconds left.
So here we are again. Tied game, Laker ball, on the road. What would happen this time? Russ inbounded the ball and LeBron held the ball and the Lakers fate. He fed AD the ball but unfortunately fouled Jalen Brunson who drew the charge. Odd LeBron didn’t just drive to the basket. With the Celtics referring debacle, you’d think he would’ve gotten a kind whistle if any contact occurred. Julius Randle couldn’t get a shot off, and the game went to overtime.
In extra time we got “good Russ.” He was making baskets, causing turnovers, and feeding AD. The Lakers executed just a bit better than the Knicks. The refs even overturned a goaltending call that went against the Lakers and L.A. sealed the game for good, winning an overtime game after losing their last four OT matchups.
The rotation at the four and five is wide open. Wenyen’s good play last night goes unrewarded and unnoticed, as he gets a DNP tonight. Thomas Bryant has been good all season, but tonight, he only plays 12 minutes in the first three quarters before finally getting a decent shift in the fourth.
Figuring out who should start, come off the bench, and stay on the bench will be crucial for Darvin Ham. With being four games under .500 there is little room for error and if Ham gets this wrong, it can cost them games they can’t afford and keep them on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.