Much of the attention for the Los Angeles Lakers’ win over the Houston Rockets will go to LeBron James and Brandon Ingram. Each posted a double-double and were crucial in leading the Lakers’ comeback, but the unsung hero on the night may have been Josh Hart.
Hart’s statistics may not jump out as he scored just four points in 19 minutes, but he was a team high plus-22 and helped set the tone on defense that the Lakers use to comeback from that 19-point second-half deficit. When the Lakers needed defense and toughness, head coach Luke Walton turned to Hart and got exactly what he hoped for.
“He was great. That’s why people should not judge on the stats or the box scores,” Walton noted following the win. “He was 2-of-3 and he was plus-22. He was diving for loose balls, coming up with rebounds, just making winning plays. When he plays like that, he’s really important for us.”
Hart had been dealing with knee tendinitis over the last few weeks, severely hampering his play when he’s been able to suit up. But he reminded everyone what he’s capable of when healthy, and he did so solely in the second half.
Walton even praised Hart for being ready to go when his number was called. “We needed to find some toughness and some of that scrap that when he’s on his game he brings. Credit to him for staying ready even though he didn’t play in the first half,” Walton said.
It can be difficult for some players to stay locked in and focused when they don’t know when or if their number will be called. Hart showed his professionalism on this night and that he’s finally healthy. If he can keep playing at this level, he’ll be a major part of the Lakers’ push to the playoffs.
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