After what looked like it was another letdown in the making, the Los Angeles Lakers turned things around in the second half and beat the Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Friday night.
The Lakers welcomed back LeBron James to the lineup after the superstar missed the past two contests with a sprained ankle and led the team in scoring with 26 points. Although his outside jumper was off, he looked like he was moving fine as evidenced by his attacks to the rim.
Carmelo Anthony was a major offensive spark as he poured in 24 points including going 6-of-8 from downtown, but Austin Reaves was the real story as the rookie once again helped energize a Lakers team that was in desperate need of it. Reaves’s box score numbers do not pop out, but he discussed after the game how he’s only focused on playing with energy when he sees the floor.
“I feel like the energy is the real thing. You can feel it, you can feel negative energy, so when you bring positive energy I think everybody just feeds off it. Everybody really brings positive energy. It kind of starts with Dwight and Russ, they’re talking all the time and bringing good energy. But really just, I know my job is to go in and play as hard as possible and do anything I can do to help the team be successful. That’s what I try to do and if it gets us going, then good.”
Head coach Frank Vogel had high praise for Reaves after the game and highlighted his effort on both sides of the ball.
“He’s been outstanding for us, on both sides of the ball,” Vogel said. “Teams think that they can target him, but he really moves his feet well, puts his body in front of the ball, plays with toughness and scraps in loose ball situations. Just plays a scrappy brand and then obviously the poise that he plays with offensively is very surprising for a rookie.
“He created a few buckets for us or at least good situations for us with his driving and kick, patience in the paint to find somebody else on the backside and it just facilitated a few possessions where we needed a bucket. So he was great for us on both sides of the ball.”
Reaves has been nothing short of a revelation for Los Angeles as he has shown that he can hang at the NBA level. While he was known in college for his scoring ballhandling ability, Reaves’ defense has really stuck out and that has been a pleasant surprise for a team that is short on quality perimeter defenders.
Vogel has been searching for competent two-way guard play to start the season, so it was notable that Reaves played 21 minutes, compared to Malik Monk, who only saw five minutes of game time. At this point, it is going to be hard to keep Reaves off the floor and he might just become a mainstay in the rotation going forward.
Reaves believes Lakers’ chemistry is growing
With the Lakers getting to .500 at 3-3, they have a chance to rattle off some wins with a favorable schedule in the coming weeks. Reaves commented on the Lakers’ chemistry, which he believes is growing with each other.
“I mean yeah. This is what our sixth game? It’s still going to take a little bit of time to really get everybody quick and on the same cylinder just because I think there is some evidence with guys on the team. Chemistry is a big thing and just playing with each other over and over again is going to build that. It’s going to take a little longer but we’re taking the right steps forward.”
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