Madness in Los Angeles: the strangest hero rescues the Lakers

When you least expect it,wham! That’s where the Lakers appear. It still means nothing (it may stay that way even if they win several more games) but the joy of tonight is not taken away by anyone. The Los Angeles team, in a survival exercise unlike anything we have seen of it, drew strength from weakness to tie when it was lost, and forced an extension in which they managed to emerge and win at home for the second time in a row, also the second of all the season. It was Matt Ryan, a man with little experience in the NBA and who closed the Lakers’ squad at the last minute, the one who got an extraordinary unbalanced triple from the corner that blew up the Staples Center (the Crypto Arena, sorry) and filled the atmosphere with unusual optimism, with well-deserved joy. A unique, magical, mystical scene, which was later rounded off in extra time with a brilliant defense that confirmed a victory that tastes like glory.

Strangely, things worked out for the Lakers. And don’t let anyone read what isn’t written: they still haven’t scored a triple (10 of 36, a very poor 27.8%) and lost many balls (up to 17). But the energy shown was exemplary, up to six players were above 10 points and won in a tight ending. Russell Westbrook, again off the bench, showed off a new illogically good version: 13 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists with 6 of 10 shooting, numbers that made his 6 turnovers forget and a clear intention to be in the talks to Best Sixth Man of the Year, as sold by Darvin Ham at the end of the match. In the NBA, you know, you always try to get a slice of these situations and the intention of the coach’s statements is to show that he bets on his player.

The Lakers went through all possible phases, but they dominated the majority: 56-44 at halftime with the best offensive demonstration of the season (62% shooting and 11 assists in that period of time), pBut they couldn’t keep the advantage, one that still left them ahead in the third quarter (82-79), which increased slightly later (89-84 with 10 minutes to go) and which the Pelicans, in a serious game, undermined later. A triple by Trey Murphy put them ahead (100-101) after the middle of the fourth quarter. And there, the madness: from 102-105 to 108-105; then, 6 points in a row from the Pelicans, a quarter that closed with a Larry Nance dunk. And, to round it off, one of the plays of the year and overtime. One in which the Lakers were simply better defensively: 120-115 to not score more in the last two minutes. A solitary basket by CJ McCollum left things 120-117. And there was no time for more. Angelina Victoria. Revelry. Revolution.

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LeBron James and Anthony Davis stood firm: 20 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists from the Kingwith more mistakes than usual but intelligent again in the hot moments, drawing fouls and entering the zone to secure the baskets in the clutch time, posting when necessary. The interior, ex-Pelicans, added 20+16+4+1+4, another formidable defensive performance and a solidity that is increasingly reminiscent of that Davis we saw in the bubble and that he maintained a historically good level that was essential for the Lakers to win their last ring. Boosted by an audience that shouted “defense” As if the record were another (2-5 now) and which stood for much of the last quarter, Lonnie Walker went to 28 points in more than 40 minutes (5 of 9 in triples) and was the hero along to Matt Ryan, who added 11. A player who has no photo in the League Pass, a complete unknown who was not selected in the draft and who had, before this season, only one game of experience in the NBA: with the Celtics last year. There he also hit a triple. And nothing more.

In the Pelicans, 27 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists from Zion Williamson, 22+9+8 (but 10 of 27 shooting) from McCollum, 9+10 from a discreet Jonas Valanciunas, 11+8+5+4 from Larry Nance, 15 points for Jose Alvarado (with 3 of 4 triples) and 0 minutes for Willy Hernangómez, who the legion of pivots ahead of him has separated him, for the moment, from the rotation almost completely. Dyson Daniels was also there, the other side of the coin. The young player, eighth in the 2022 draft, was included by Willie Green to defend in a quintet that intended to undermine the Lakers’ equalizer attempt with 7.8 seconds to go. And he did, but he rebounded on Lonnie Walker’s attempt and was fouled to the personal, where he missed both free throws. New opportunity, incredible pass from Austin Reavesgreat slate of Darvin Ham (without Westbrook on the court), great movement introducing a Matt Ryan who was sitting in the previous play and… anyway. Spectacular.

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