The Los Angeles Lakers dropped their eighth consecutive game on Thursday night, falling to the Golden State Warriors by 16. With the team officially out of playoff contention, the result means little, but LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook sitting out the contest meant a nice opportunity for the Lakers’ young players and none took more advantage than Talen Horton-Tucker.
Coming into the season, Horton-Tucker was expected to see a much bigger role due to some of the departures. But he has struggled with consistency all season long as his role has changed regularly. On this night, however, Horton-Tucker put on the best performance of his career with 40 points, three rebounds, three assists and four steals on 15-of-28 shooting.
Afterward, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel had nothing but praise for the young guard.
“Talen was great tonight,” Vogel said. “He really just had a look about him that he was going to attack this game. He played with a great deal of determination and put more pressure on the paint and the rim than we’ve seen in a lot of our games this year. The downhill nature of his game was really.
“The best fit for him is with the ball in his hands with shooters around him and we haven’t been able to create that type of role for him, but you see what he can do when he has that type of setting. I’m really proud of his performance tonight.”
With the Lakers’ stars out, Horton-Tucker was the team’s primary creator for much of the night and he thrived in the role, one which Vogel admits the team hasn’t been able to put him in much this season.
“It’s something as a coach you have to try to make those pieces fit. He and Russ together haven’t been great because both are best with the ball in their hands. It’s just one of those things with Russ out Talen was able to do what he did tonight, but that’s just something that as a coach you have to figure out ways to make those things fit.”
Horton-Tucker has come under a lot of criticism this season, but it is performances like this that show why the Lakers are so high on the young guard. While it feels like he has been with the team for a long time, he is still just 21 years old with plenty of room to grow and Vogel believes this is a performance he can build on.
“Yes, I do think this year can be a building block. This is why we signed him to the extension and why we believe in him. The key is trying to get this kind of efficiency/production when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands with some of the other vets out there. So part of his growth and development. A really positive night for him.”
These games might mean little for the Lakers as a whole, but for players such as Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves, Malik Monk and Wenyen Gabriel, these final contests amount to an audition of sorts and Horton-Tucker passed this first one with flying colors.
Vogel says Horton-Tucker has ‘a ways to go’ to become Lakers’ defensive stopper
One area where Vogel was hoping Horton-Tucker would shine for the Lakers this season was on the defensive end. With the departures of the team’s perimeter defenders, Vogel spoke about the young guard potentially morphing into the team’s defensive stopper, but he admitted the young Laker isn’t quite at that level yet.
“I don’t think he’s quite at the level that we consider him a stopper, but I do think he’s grown this year with some of how we execute our defensive coverages. He’s just a year ahead from where he was last year, but still has a ways to go.”
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