It became clear early on this season that Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel would have to find minutes for second-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker. The talented Iowa State product has endured his growing pains this season but has the support of his team and the coaches.
One thing that is extremely apparent about Horton-Tucker is that he is always in attack mode and will stop at nothing to get to the basket. His ability to create his own shot is something that many other Lakers simply don’t have, but one thing Horton-Tucker always tries to have when he is on the court is that aggression.
“I try to step on the court and whenever I come on, from start to finish, I try to play with the same aggressiveness and confidence,” Horton-Tucker said following the Lakers’ 93-89 victory over the Denver Nuggets. “Just being able to have that I feel like can take me a long way so just being aggressive is the most important thing whenever I’m out there on the court.”
Playing tentative is simply not in Horton-Tucker’s game and would likely have him perched on the end of the Lakers’ bench. Against Denver, Horton-Tucker had another solid outing with 10 points and three rebounds, but all most could talk about was his final basket in the waning seconds of the game.
With the Lakers up just two points and the shot clock winding down, Horton-Tucker drove the lane but found himself in no-mans land so he flipped up an awkward shot that missed badly. But he didn’t give up on the play and thanks to Marc Gasol battling Nikola Jokic, the ball bounced back to Horton-Tucker, who quickly finished a layup to basically ice the game for L.A.
Horton-Tucker was honest in his assessment of that final play, but also noted how new he is to that situation in the NBA. “I feel like the shot I took, I pretty much kind of ran out of options and I just tried to get something on the backboard,” he added. “So it was just I feel like instinct almost. So just to be in that position was kind of crazy, it was my first time really being in at the end of the game. So I feel like I look at everything as a learning experience so that’s gonna be another one for me.”
This is the perfect way for Horton-Tucker to look at these things as he still has so much room to grow in this game. It’s also why his teammates embrace him so much and he appreciates that. It was extremely apparent after the play as well as Anthony Davis could be seen giving him a playful smack on the head.
“It’s great just because of the fact that they know I be really hard on myself so with him just telling me to keep going, next play is always gonna be good,” Horton-Tucker said of that exchange.
Horton-Tucker is becoming one of the brightest young players in the NBA and his desire to improve has endeared him to his teammates. His continued growth gives the Lakers something to look forward to both in the near and distant future.
Matthews praises Lakers’ heart, emphasizes need to keep it going
The Lakers had to dig deep in order to get their win over the Nuggets and a team effort allowed them to do just that. Players such as Horton-Tucker, Marc Gasol, and Wesley Matthews all played big roles and Matthews loved the heart that the team showed.
“Just the heart, the togetherness. Being able to hold each other accountable and to be able to do that, you got to hold yourself accountable and put your foot in the ground. Put your feet in the ground, feet in the sand, whatever the phrase is that you want to say or want to use and put it into it. And that’s what we were able to do.”
But Matthews also made it clear that the Lakers can’t afford to rest now. “Obviously it’s one win, it’s a big win, but we need more. We’re not just gonna be like ‘OK, we beat the Denver Nuggets.’ What about the last six games? We got to continue to build on what we did, enjoy this one and get back to scrapping and fighting again.”
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