Los Angeles Lakers rookie Josh Hart made his much-awaited return on Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, which he targeted nearly two weeks ago. Hart immediately made an impact in his normal ways, finishing with 13 points, 13 rebounds and a block.
The most important statistic for Hart however, was 35 minutes played. Recovering from a broken bone in his hand, Hart was still able to keep working out for the most part. Of course, there is a big difference in practicing and being in game shape and Hart felt it.
“Tired. Exhausted. That’s all I could say,” Hart said following the Lakers’ 124-122 overtime loss to the Bucks.
All things told head coach Luke Walton probably would have preferred not to play Hart so many minutes in his first game back, but circumstances forced his hand. The Lakers were already without Lonzo Ball due to a knee contusion, and once Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was ejected in the second quarter, Walton had little choice.
Hart was a part of an outstanding performance by the Lakers bench unit which helped them erase a 20-point Bucks lead. “They were out there having fun, playing together, getting stops, getting out in transition and playing to our strengths,” Hart said about Alex Caruso, Ivica Zubac and the other reserves.
“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They battled and got us back in it.”
The Lakers got 39 points from the second unit, led by 16 points from Zubac. Caruso also had an impressive six-point, six-assist outing in 31 minutes. He’s now joined South Bay for their playoff game Saturday, and is expected to return to the Lakers on Sunday.
Nonetheless, Hart’s return was a positive for a team that has been dealing with a ton of injuries over the last few weeks. “It’s difficult at times, because you have lineups that haven’t really played with each other too much,” Hart said.
“One guy comes back and then two go out,” Hart noted in the locker room. Even still, Hart knows the Lakers can’t dwell on that down the stretch of the season. At the end of the day we’re all professionals.
“We can’t control those kind of things. What we control is our effort, our defense, and how we go about games. It’s a part of basketball. We can’t control them but we can control how we respond to it.”
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