The Los Angeles Lakers suited up without a bevy of key pieces when they took on the Houston Rockets on the second night of a back-to-back, and the result didn’t suggest otherwise.
LeBron James sat out with a sore right groin and Alex Caruso did the same due to a neck injury. Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo also aren’t with the team due to an opt-out and a thumb injury, respectively.
The Lakers lost by 13 points to the Rockets, who were themselves without former MVP Russell Westbrook. L.A. shot an abysmal 10% from behind the arc in the process. The Lakers are struggling to find their rhythm and own a -42 score differential since entering the bubble.
One positive takeaway, however, is that the unorganized state of the team has allowed lesser-known talent to play. Lakers rookie Talen Horton-Tucker ran with it on Thursday, scoring 10 points on 66% shooting while racking up four steals.
Horton-Tucker played in only two previous games this season for a combined five minutes but saw almost 20 minutes against the Rockets.
“It goes to just being ready whenever your name is called because you never what’s going to happen,” Horton-Tucker said. “Just being ready was the most important thing for me, and I feel like I was able to do that.
“I’m just trying to be the best teammate and player I can be. I’m young, I’m just trying to absorb everything, just soak everything in. Being able to come in and do whatever they needed me to do was important for me.
“That was my first real minutes in an actual NBA game, so I was just trying to catch a rhythm and figure out how things work on the floor.”
The Lakers will eventually reintegrate the injured pieces of their rotation, and Horton-Tucker likely won’t see many more minutes. Still, it is abundantly clear that the Iowa State product is willing to contribute in any capacity.
“I was just trying to just be ready,” Horton-Tucker reiterated. “I wasn’t really anticipating anything, just fill whatever role they need from me.
“Everybody has positive things to say. If I’m doing something wrong or if I’m doing something right, they’ve been telling me. That’s what I want them to do. It’s the only way I’m going to grow, so I appreciate them for that.”
Vogel, Kuzma floored by Horton-Tucker
Horton-Tucker impressed in the G League all season and averaged 18 points on over 40% shooting.
“He continues to surprise and impress me,” Vogel said. “He’s making a case for being in the rotation with the way he’s performed in this whole restart.
“Obviously he had great growth in our G League program this year and has really come along. He played really strong, looked really comfortable against a very good team.”
Kyle Kuzma offered similar praise, saying, “He has a bright future. He’s super young, talented, great person off the floor. His best quality is he’s very humble, thankful to be here learning from everyone, is a sponge, and takes it all in.
“I think as a young player on a team like this, with his physique and can get downhill and make special plays, it’s only going to serve him well just being around us every single day and learning.”
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