On Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers faced off against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a must-win game. Behind the leadership of Dennis Schroder and a perfect night from the field for Austin Reaves, L.A. was able to survive with a 123-117 win to inch closer to the Play-In Tournament.
Most impressively, the Lakers secured the victory without LeBron James, Anthony Davis and D’Angelo Russell in the lineup. James is in the midst of at least three weeks on the sideline with a tendon injury, Russell is still day-to-day with a sprained ankle and Davis had a scheduled rest day to manage the stress injury in his foot.
With the deck stacked firmly against the Lakers, they managed a victory. Reaves was particularly happy with the way players stepped up in the absence of three vital pieces of the Lakers scheme, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Any time you play without your three most ball-dominant guys that you run mostly everything through, the game is going to be a little — I don’t want to say awkward — it’s just a lot of new situations for guys, including myself. So I think for us to come in and get a win, regarding that situation, it’s a big win and a big-time performance from us. It was a much-needed win and we gutted it out.”
Reaves also credited the Thunder for their fight despite not having two of their best players in the lineup in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kenrich Williams. The win became all that more important because of it:
“It’s huge. And I mean, obviously they didn’t have Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander), but they have a lot of talent over there. Young talent that knows how to play the game and plays hard. They’re not a bad team at all, but we needed this win and we knew that coming in. We spoke about this before, we’re not going to have AD, Bron, DLo, which contribute most of the on-ball work with Dennis (Schroder). But it was huge for us to come in here and gut out a win. And now we move on to the next.”
The win not only was big for the confidence of the team’s role players who now must play at least three weeks without James in the lineup, but it also firmly placed them in the Play-In Tournament race. As of Friday morning, L.A. is in the 11th slot in the Western Conference, surpassing the Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers.
They are just one game back of the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz, 1.5 games back of their Friday night opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and two games back of the skidding L.A. Clippers.
Schroder willing to do ‘everything’ for the Lakers
Part of the Lakers’ recent success can be attributed to Schroder, who has filled in for both James and Russell as the team’s primary ball-handler. He’s doing this despite being injured himself after rolling his ankle in the first quarter of the game against the Thunder.
Schroder spoke afterwards about playing through the injury, saying he’ll do whatever is needed to help the Lakers get to the playoffs.
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