The story of Friday night’s big win over the Washington Wizards was Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James scoring an incredibly efficient 50 points. However, Friday also saw a strong outing from 21-year old Talen Horton-Tucker.
Outside of a vicious dunk on former Laker Kyle Kuzma, Horton-Tucker finished with 15 points on 7-of-16 from the field, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
He played a big role in helping the Lakers get on the right track after a few ugly losses since the All-Star break. But more impressively, he’s done it while nursing a recent ankle injury. Horton-Tucker spoke about this following Friday’s win.
“My ankle- I had a Grade 2 sprain,” Horton-Tucker said. “I’m still dealing with it, it’s still painful. I’m just trying to play through it and today to see a win; any way I can help everyone and be out there. I’m trying to play through it. It still hurts.”
Horton-Tucker has missed two of the Lakers’ last five games, including losses to the L.A. Clippers and Houston Rockets. However, he has had back-to-back strong performances in spite of the injury.
In his last two games — with a missed game in the middle — Horton-Tucker has a total of 33 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals. He’s done this on a relatively efficient 14-of-30 from the field, just under 50%.
Given the Lakers’ recently-found formula for success, surrounding James with the younger and more active players, Horton-Tucker figures to play a solid role for the team down the stretch of the season.
In 28 minutes this season, the combination of James, Horton-Tucker, Malik Monk, Austin Reaves, and Stanley Johnson has a net rating of 39.4, amassing a ridiculous 144.6 offensive rating. It’s a small sample size, but it’s absolutely a lineup worth sticking to until Anthony Davis is back.
Horton-Tucker appears as though he’ll continue playing through his ankle injury, likely taking sporadic games off whenever the pain is significant. The Lakers play again on Sunday evening against the Phoenix Suns.
James giving fans something to cheer for
In the Lakers win, James scored 50 points for what is the second straight Lakers home game. James spoke about the recent spell of boos at Crypto.com Arena and his motivation for incredible performances like Friday.
“They’ve been great. The Laker faithful know when bad basketball is being played, they know when good basketball is being played. They have the right to have any response they want. At the end of the day, they’ve seen so many great teams, so many great individuals, so many great individual performances, so many things in this building over the course of this franchise history.
“For me, being a part of this franchise, I feel like I just try to give them an opportunity to have some of those memorable nights as well. Try to give them something to cheer for, give them something to feel good about on a nightly basis. I know it hasn’t been as great as they want it to be this year, but you take the small wins when they come for sure.”
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