Matt Ryan grabbed the final Los Angeles Lakers roster spot due to his ability to shoot the ball and when it mattered most, he came through for head coach Darvin Ham. Ryan’s buzzer-beating 3 sent the game to overtime where the Lakers would hold on and come away with their second consecutive win, 120-117, over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Ryan had actually struggled early on, hitting just one of his six 3-point attempts in the first half. In fact, on the prior possession with the Lakers also down three, Ryan wasn’t even on the court as Lonnie Walker IV missed a great open look that would’ve tied the game.
But with a pair of missed free throws from Pelicans rookie Dyson Daniels giving the Lakers another chance, Ham turned to the sharpshooting wing who came through and Ham spoke on that decision after the game.
“That was a total gut feeling,” Ham said of putting Ryan back in the game for that shot. “Because even as well as he shoots the ball, his percentage I think ended up 33% tonight, but I don’t know. I’d be curious to see what they thought when they saw him in the game. But I trust the kid. I trust him. I trust all my players, especially putting him in the position to make a shot. You see Lonnie, he misses that shot before but he hits a huge 3 to get us going in the overtime. So he’s very much capable.
“But Matt, just to put him in that position, you learn a lot about yourself as a coach, trust him and tell the guy that’s throwing the ball in Austin that that’s where I want him to go with the ball. Circle AD, circle LeBron, or whatever, but it’s gonna be a quick little rip screen and I want you to throw it towards the sideline. And it worked. It was fabulously executed and Matt had the courage to line it up and knock it down. Total team effort. I can draw up the greatest play in the world but if the guys don’t execute, AD doesn’t set that brush screen or Austin doesn’t;t give it a real chance to connect on the pass and Matt doesn’t check to see if his feet are right to be ready to let it fly, it doesn’t matter. So it was a total group effort.”
One thing that is great about Ryan is that he knows his role and is not shy about getting his shot up when he gets in the game. And one thing that helps with a player’s confidence is when the coach has complete confidence in him as well. Ham absolutely trusts Ryan and after this shot, the confidence has grown that much more.
“I think the proof was in the pudding,” Ham said. “Everybody saw that it’s a need that we have and you can never have too many shooters. That is something he does and he’s not afraid to throw it up there. He went 1-for-6 I believe in the first half and at halftime he came right back out and told me straight up he said ‘Coach, give me those same six looks and I’m gonna knock them down.’ I said I’m with you man, that’s the mentality I want you to have and I’m just gonna let you know that if you don’t shoot them, I’m taking you out of the game.
“And so everyone has a niche that they have to carve out for themselves and that is his niche. He hit the biggest one all season thus far and just to see him and the look in his eyes where he’s ready to do whatever he can to contribute and that’s his main super power. So I’m thrilled for him. He’s getting the opportunity to impact winning and I look forward to him doing that more.”
On a Lakers team starved for shooting, Ryan has emerged as the team’s most consistent marksman, knocking down 45 percent from 3 in his five appearances so far. That ability, along with his confidence to knock them down regardless of the stage or moment, could very well lock himself into Ham’s rotation.
And it can not be understated the role Ham has played in this as well as he is clearly empowering his players. What he has done with Russell Westbrook in getting him to thrive in his bench role has been outstanding and with Ryan crediting him as well, it is clear that Ham is making a serious impact on this roster.
Ham didn’t use ATO card to draw up play
After the game, Ham explained that he typically has an index card with ATO (after timeout) plays on it to draw up plays in that scenario. This time though, he didn’t bother using the game and it worked to success.
“This is the second game I haven’t brought out my ATO card,” he said. “But I think it saved me a little bit because instead of standing there with limited time, I have probably like three or four plays on my card, it would have leaked over into me getting into the huddle in a timely manner, getting the guys on the floor that I wanted on the floor. I kind of just felt in my gut that, we know Matt can shoot it, but I could be using him as some type of decoy for someone else. But the play was definitely intended for him.
“Austin threw a hell of a pass and we were fortunate because we felt kind of terrible to be in that position after the way we had played that stretch early in the second half when we built a pretty good lead. Couldn’t build on it and they got back into the game, highly competitive ballclub, well-coached. But yeah, I just wanted Matt to be in position to just throw one up and hopefully go in.”
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