When the Los Angeles Lakers badly in need of a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive, it was undrafted second-year guard Austin Reaves who came to the rescue with the best game of his career. Reaves would finish with a career-high 35 points, knocking down 16-of-18 free throws, to go along with six rebounds and six assists to lead the Lakers to a 111-105 win over the Orlando Magic.
Reaves scored 13 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, including the final 10 points of the night for the Lakers with the game tied at 101 to ensure the victory. This effort ultimately led to the Crypto.com Arena chanting MVP for Reaves, something the guard truly appreciated.
“Yeah, I mean, like I told Mike [Trudell] on the court. I try to, every time I take the court, play with a sense of urgency and leave it all out on the floor because, I mean, I just feel like that’s how basketball should be played any sport, you should be able to 110% at all times,” Reaves said after the contest.
“Obviously, that’s never sustainable. But for them to recognize what I do, obviously, not an MVP-caliber player, those guys are really good. But for them to do that for me is special. It means a lot to me. So shout out Lakers Nation.”
Reaves might not be an MVP-caliber player, but he certainly was on this night, navigating the pick-and-roll to create all of the offense down the stretch. His comfort level on the court and overall confidence is sky high right now and it comes from his experiences so far in his career.
“Yeah, the game is way different than college. The whole year last year was kind of a year for me to figure a lot of stuff out,” Reaves noted. “I’ve said many times, I’m not the most athletic person in the world, I’m not the best at anything. But I think that I’m really good at a lot of things. So last year, was kind of a year that I had to feel things out.
“I didn’t hit the ground running like I really wanted to but like I said earlier, it’s all about effort. And how you approach the game and like, all year last year and then even the start of this year, it’s a learning curve for me. So, I’ve only been in the league for almost two years now. So every game that I’ve played in the past has been a learning experience.”
When the Lakers signed Reaves coming out of the 2021 NBA Draft, it was originally to a two-way contract. Prior to training camp, the Lakers converted that deal to a standard contract, but Reaves was not expected to make any kind of serious impact.
Injuries thrust Reaves into the rotation and he immediately stood out for exactly what he said, his overall effort and just being good at everything. To come from that to having a game like this for the Lakers is something he relishes.
“It’s special,” Reaves said. “I grew up a Lakers fan so to do it for this organization especially is surreal. Sometimes I got to stop and really think about what I am doing.
“Obviously, I think all the odds are stacked against me from where I’m from. I played baseball a lot. I didn’t really play basketball and only played one year AAU. But to be at this level, and this organization and you know, to score the last 10 points is special. All I’m really happy about is the win.”
Reaves has proven to be an irreplaceable piece for the Lakers and he very well might have saved the season with his effort in the win over the Magic.
Austin Reaves believes Lakers should shoot more 3-pointers as a team
Something else that helped the Lakers come away with the win was the team’s 3-point shooting as the Lakers knocked down 13 shots from deep. This is right in line with something Reaves spoke about after the Dallas game as he thinks the team should shoot more from 3-point range.
“I think it’s just the nature of the game,” Reaves said. “You make shots, you miss shots obviously. You always want to make shots but that’s not the case. 25% is obviously not good. I think we as a team need to shoot more 3s. Twenty is ehh, but that’s the game today. So I think we need to get a little more up. I think we got guys that can shoot the ball so once we see one go through the net, like we saw Beas hit one, it brings energy. And then Troy hit one, and it’s just a trickle-down effect.”
Against Orlando, the Lakers attempted 32 shots from deep so Reaves got his wish and the result was a positive one.
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