Minutes before the Lakers were set to tip off against the Pacers in the In-Season Tournament final on Saturday, Shams Charania of The Athletic dropped the scoop that Austin Reaves was under the weather but would be soldiering on and attempting to play.
He did a lot more than soldier on.
Reaves was brilliant for the Lakers, particularly in the first half. With LeBron James dealing with rare foul trouble, Reaves stepped in and scored 22 points on 7-9 shooting from the field and 8-9 shooting from the free throw line.
LeBron and Anthony Davis picked up the scoring in the second half but Reaves still finished with 28 points, his season-high — though it won’t technically count since the In-Season Tournament final doesn’t count statistically — to play a huge role in the Lakers winning the inaugural version of the event.
“He wasn’t feeling well tonight,” head coach Darvin Ham said. “I don’t think a lot of people understand that. We’ve come off a long, four-game trip back to the East Coast and all down through Oklahoma, back home, back out here. We’re changing climates. It’s one of those things where he put it together man and…the game he had tonight, we needed every bit of it. He’s just a flat-out competitor. Unassuming. Just wants to handle his business and be there for his teammates.”
And postgame, LeBron James was sure to bring up that other famous flu game from Michael Jordan.
LeBron James in the background: "Who had the better flu game: AR [Austin Reaves] or MJ [Michael Jordan]?! It's up for debate!"— Oh no he didn't (@ohnohedidnt24) December 10, 2023
Reaves: "I'm gonna let LeBron keep talking and I'm gonna continue to talk about the game." pic.twitter.com/D34EWLlqFs
Easily the best part of that video is LeBron acknowledging that Reaves wouldn’t answer the question because he’s a smart man at the end.
See, Reaves did it in a do-or-die game, so that alone takes it a notch up in quality. MJ came in Game 5 of the ‘97 NBA Finals, so he had two more chances to win after that.
And Jordan shot just 13-27 in that game for his 37 points, way less efficient than Reaves’ 9-15 shooting. Give Reaves 12 more shot attempts and he’s scoring at least nine more points.
Am I saying Reaves’ game was better? Yes. And that’s before you even dive into the “flu” aspect of this, which we’ll leave up to those with a bit more skepticism about the illnesses.
I’m also saying if Michael Jordan was playing even a single game in Las Vegas, the “flu” would not be what he was battling.
What is unquestionable is that Reaves did something that MJ absolutely never did and that was leave Vegas up $500,000.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.