Talen Horton-Tucker’s form has dipped since he returned to the Los Angeles Lakers lineup in a stunning fashion earlier this season.
Horton-Tucker missed the first 13 games of the season with a thumb injury, which he suffered in the preseason. The Iowa State alum came back in the Nov. 14 clash with the San Antonio Spurs, jumping right into the starting lineup and ending the night with 17 points.
He then registered a new career-high in scoring, chipping in 28 points against the Chicago Bulls. In his first three games of the 2021-22 campaign, he averaged 23.3 points a night and shot 40% from behind the 3-point line.
Since then, Horton-Tucker’s numbers tumbled to 5.9 points per game and 10.5% from beyond the arc. Head coach Frank Vogel removed the 21-year-old guard from the starting lineup in three games this season but then inserted him back for the last two outings amid new injuries and health issues on the Lakers.
In Friday’s 119-115 loss to the L.A. Clippers, rival defenders capitalized on Horton-Tucker’s shooting slump. The Clippers kept leaving the 21-year-old guard wide open on the perimeter and doubling down on the coverage of other Lakers on the floor instead.
But Anthony Davis asks to give Horton-Tucker more time to find his rhythm on offense.
“Talen, he’s struggling a little bit right now, but he’s gonna find his way,” Davis said after the loss to the Clippers. “He’s still doing things that help that don’t come up on the stat sheet.
“He had the matchup tonight guarding Paul George some of the possessions and he’s gonna have to be able to do the little things until he’s able to find a rhythm on the offensive end and that will come with time.”
Davis added the Lakers’ veterans tell Horton-Tucker to remain patient himself and keep on working to get back in game shape.
“We’re kind of telling him that your first game was a lot of adrenaline, you came back with a lot of energy,” he said.
“But you haven’t played in two months, so it’s gonna take some time for you to get back into a rhythm, game shape, all that stuff. So we’re just staying positive with him. But the lineup looked good and we’ll see how we move forward.”
Vogel needs more time to evaluate Horton-Tucker’s defense
While Horton-Tucker’s struggles on the offensive end continue, Vogel said he needs more time to assess the young guard’s defensive contribution considering his absence at the beginning of the season.
“I think we’re going to need the first half of the season if not longer to really give the proper evaluation,” the coach said.
“He needs to work on not getting screened and obviously the containment issues against some of the elite players, but overall, he’s got really good defensive instincts. Good toughness, length. Obviously, being able to deflect the ball. He’s had some really outstanding plays at the basket.”
Vogel previously described the team’s plans to turn Horton-Tucker into one of the anchors of the team’s defense.
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