After a dispiriting start to their mini road trip, the Los Angeles Lakers bounced back and blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 116-95, on Friday night.
It was a ho-hum kind of game for the Lakers, who raced out to a big lead in the first quarter and never looked back. LeBron James and Avery Bradley were the stars of the night as they shot a combined 10-of-14 from beyond the arc en route to 55 total points, while Los Angeles lucked out with Oklahoma City shooting a frigid 10-of-44 from distance.
Outside of James and Bradley, Austin Reaves had a major impact for the team as the rookie scored 13 points to go along with five rebounds and two assists. Reaves had one of his best two-way games in his young Lakers career.
Reaves has been one of the few bright spots for the Lakers during the 2021-22 season before an ill-timed hamstring injury, really coming of on as a rotation player for Frank Vogel.
However, since returning, he was used sparingly before the win against the Thunder. After the game, Vogel had high praise for Reaves’ play and attributed the recent usage to the injury, which the head coach believes is now behind him.
“He was spectacular tonight,” Vogel said. He had some really positive stretches early in the season before he got injured with the hamstring and since he’s come back, we’ve been looking for opportunities to kind of get him back in the fold and he’s looked like he’s still a player coming back from injury in his first couple games back until tonight.
“I think tonight was what you see of what he’s capable of and what he does on both sides of the ball and that’s the performance I was looking for from him to have confidence that he’s back from his injury and to continue to give him a bigger role.”
It will be interesting to see how Vogel hands out minutes and roles once Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn are healthy and available, but it is clear at this point that Reaves needs to be in the rotation because of what he brings to the table. The Lakers need players who can contribute consistently, and it looks like Reaves is one they can actually count on on a nightly basis.
Phil Handy believes Austin Reaves can be a ‘special player’
The organization is high on Reaves as evidenced by them converting his two-way contract into a regular one before the start of the season and him immediately getting real minutes. Vogel has previously spoken highly about Reaves and Phil Handy went so far to say that he could be a ‘special player’ one day.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!