The Los Angeles Lakers are steadily attempting to turn their season around. As time runs out for teams to climb the NBA standings, the Lakers are finally finding an answer for the enigma this season has presented.
LeBron James seems to be warming up for the postseason already, while his video game-like antics on the court result in incredible shooting performances. For Russell Westbrook, who has spent the majority of the season facing scrutiny from fans and dodging rumors, he found his answer in a supportive role Friday night against the Washington Wizards.
While Westbrook didn’t close for the Lakers down the stretch, the minutes he provided gave the team the boost it needed to make plays. Malik Monk and Austin Reaves ended the night with 21 and 12 points, respectively, aiding James on his mission to pick up a win. With the younger players earning their minutes, Westbrook opted to help his teammates score and limit his defensive liability.
Head coach Frank Vogel spoke to Westbrook’s efficiency, despite him having a rough shooting night at 2-for-11.
“[Westbrook] didn’t have a great night finishing with his shooting, whether at the rim or on the perimeter, but the game is about the five guys that are gonna help you win and those three guys were playing at a super high level and defensively, with a lead we wanted Stanley [Johnson] in there and it was just about having those guys in there to win,” Vogel said.
Vogel also pointed out that Westbrook only had one turnover throughout his 31 minutes on the court, a welcome change from the past three games where he was responsible for a combined 12 turnovers. He explained the slight decrease in Westbrook’s minutes was due to scoring needs.
“Russ had nine assists and one turnover tonight,” Vogel said. “That’s one of his biggest roles on this team is to be a shot-creator. It wasn’t anything more than that.”
Lakers role players shine under James’ 50-point performance
James put on a show for those at the Crypto.com Arena Friday night, but the surrounding cast put together the kind of performances the Lakers have been needing all season. Stanley Johnson, Monk and Reaves silenced the doubt the team has been receiving about its effort.
Monk was James’ much-needed second scorer, as he ended the night with 21 points, four assists and three rebounds for an impressive outing. Even Talen Horton-Tucker put on a 15-point display.
The all-around effort from the Lakers has shown that the team may just stand a chance come postseason.
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