Wayne Ellington rose to the occasion on Wednesday, making crucial plays in crunch time to help the Los Angeles Lakers come out victorious of the rollercoaster clash with the Dallas Mavericks.
Ellington found himself among L.A.’s starters for the game after Talen Horton-Tucker and Malik Monk entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, ruling them out of the clash.
But not everything went the veteran guard’s way on Wednesday. Ellington badly missed from the 3-point land on a couple of occasions late in the fourth quarter. With 40 seconds left in the game — and the Lakers trailing by three points — the 34-year-old threw an airball after LeBron James found him completely unguarded on the perimeter with a kick-out pass.
But it was Ellington who sent the game to overtime, hitting a circus triple in the last seconds of regulation before Reaves did the same to claim the victory five minutes later.
“Bron said it in the locker room postgame, we’re always talking about trusting the next man and believing the pass and believing the open man is the most talented guy on the floor,” head coach Frank Vogel said.
“But Bron said it best, he said you have to trust yourself too. So when you come down and you have a tough miss, you got to be able to come back like Wayne did after the tough miss and hit a shot to send us to overtime. That’s trusting yourself and trusting all your work and believing in yourself. So that’s a big factor as well.”
Ellington made more than striking from downtown on that crucial play of the game. At one point, he rushed down the court on a Mavericks fastbreak and poked the ball away from Kristaps Porzingis to stop an easy bucket.
Vogel pointed out that although Ellington has gained a reputation of a lethal sharpshooter, he has also proven to be a capable defender.
“Our defense is definitely growing, we are getting better, we are getting more connected,” the head coach said.
“Still have a long way to go. But Wayne Ellington is a guy that’s known for his shooting, but he brings maximum effort on the defensive side of the ball and he gets the most out of his defensive talent.
“We talk all the time with transition defense, it’s not just about matching up, but how can we save possessions in those advantage breaks that teams are coming at us, and that’s a great example of Wayne just hustling through after a missed shot to get that possession back. That’s part of the culture that we’re trying to build.”
James: Lakers ‘like’ where they are at
The Lakers have won six of their last eight games, showing improvements in all major areas of their play. L.A.’s form surged even though injuries and the health and safety protocols keep causing players to miss games.
James acknowledged the Lakers didn’t play up to their potential early in the season. But the four-time NBA champion said the team has been satisfied with its growth recently.
“It hasn’t gone as everyone else had hoped it would, it’s gone how it’s gone,” James said. “You go out and play the game and you want to be better every single game. We want to continue to work our habits, continue to do what we got to do to be great every night. So we are what we are as a team. A lot of injuries, a lot of different lineups, obviously guys in protocols, false protocols, things of that nature.
“So we are what we are as a team right now and we like where we’re at.”
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