Talen Horton-Tucker is finishing the 2021-22 season on a high note, scoring a career-high 40 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 128-112 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Only 27 players have scored 40 or more points at a younger age than Horton-Tucker on Thursday. The 21-year-old guard also set new career highs in field goal attempts (28), attempts made (15), free throw attempts (9), and free throws made (8).
The Iowa State alum took charge of the Lakers’ offense in the absence of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook — becoming L.A.’s primary playmaker, a role he couldn’t quite enjoy.
“Coming into the year, I understood who I was playing with,” Horton-Tucker said. “Playing with Bron, AD, and Russ. Those being the guys that will have the ball in their hands. I knew I was going to have to settle into a role that I wasn’t going to have the ball.
“With the year being up and down, and us being eliminated now, just being aggressive in the times we finish out. No matter if it’s me, Austin [Reaves], Malik [Monk], Stanley [Johnson] and the other guys. Dwight [Howard] and anybody bringing a lift is going to be important.”
Horton-Tucker added that even though he had a great shooting night — making 33.3% of his triples and 53.6% of all shots — he didn’t want to prioritize scoring at the expense of his other responsibilities.
“Just being a complete basketball player,” he said, explaining his mindset even when he gets to score a lot. “Put the right plays together to try to help get a win. Just being able to lock in and have the coaching staff give me the confidence to keep going is always going to be good, too.”
Perhaps that’s why Horton-Tucker didn’t feel pressure to reach the 40-point mark at the free-throw line in the last seconds of the game.
“There wasn’t really no pressure. I wasn’t really worried about it,” he said. “Malik [Monk] was more worried about it than I was. I feel like him being unselfish like that, that’s why he’s my brother almost.
“They were telling me to go get the ball, and I was like ‘forget it,’ because we were losing, but he gave it to me and I got fouled. It wasn’t too much pressure, though.”
Horton-Tucker wants to give Lakers fans ‘their money’s worth’ in last home game on Friday
The Lakers host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday in their last home game of the season. But even though L.A. has nothing left to play for, Horton-Tucker said the Purple and Gold will do what they can to get one more win for the hometown fans.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing, but we want to come out and get a win,” he said. “Of course, every time we step on the court we’re not playing to lose. We got to give the people in Crypto their money’s worth.”
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