After falling into a double-digit hole at halftime, it looked like the Los Angeles Lakers were going to suffer another bad loss on the road.
The Lakers came into the night shorthanded against the Charlotte Hornets as LeBron James and Anthony Davis were ruled out, and it seemed like the team had nothing left in the gas tank as they were also playing on the second night of a back-to-back. However, Russell Westbrook led a valiant comeback in the second half where he scored 30 of his 35 points on the night and had Los Angeles within one possession of stealing a win.
LaMelo Ball split a pair of free throws in the final seconds that put the Lakers only down two with the ball. Instead of a two-point attempt, Westbrook ended up launching from beyond the arc and missed, handing Charlotte the end. Westbrook later explained that he was originally trying to get to the rim but opted for the three given the defensive look.
“I was trying to drive and Bridges kind of cut me off and then it was either win or go home. Felt like I was in good rhythm, I’ll live with it. I was on target but just a little short, I’ll take it.”
Even though Westbrook is a poor outside shooter, he felt in the moment that it was not a bad shot to take given how he was playing and the circumstances of the Lakers being short-handed in the second game of a back-to-back looking to avoid overtime on a long road trip.
“It wasn’t initially,” said of his plan to take a three. “When I took a step to the basket they did a good job of cutting me off so I backed out, got my rhythm and I just made two before that so I’ll live and die by that.”
Without James or Davis, Westbrook’s decision to outright win the game is defensible and it was simply unfortunate that his shot did not go down. The Lakers’ effort to climb back into the game was nothing short of impressive but like a handful of their losses during the 2021-22 season, it was just a little too late to turn it up.
Despite the outcome, it was good to see Westbrook lead the Lakers without his costars and could be the start of a good stretch of basketball for him. Westbrook has typically played better during the second half of seasons, so hopefully this was the jumping-off point for him and the Lakers.
Vogel had no problem with Westbrook’s game-winning 3-point attempt
Head coach Frank Vogel made a key decision to play smaller in the second half, and almost resulted in a victory had Westbrook’s 3-pointer went in. While some coaches may have preferred a bucket to tie the game, Vogel supported Westbrook’s attempt.
“We had an opportunity for him to get to his left hand with Stanley rolling to the basket and Melo as a shooter behind the play. They switched out and at that point, the hottest guy in the gym has the ball in his hands ready to make a play. I had no problem with the shot he took, he was 3-for-6 from three in the second half and we went for the win. He knocks that down and we’re talking about one hell of a win, it just didn’t go down for us,” Vogel said.
“But Russell was spectacular in that second half with 30 points and just really willed our team into an opportunity to steal on on the road.”
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