When the Los Angeles Lakers headed into their game against the Houston Rockets down three starters, things didn’t look good for them, even if both teams were on respective five-game losing streaks.
Head coach Luke Walton deciding to start Tyler Ennis in Lonzo Ball’s absence didn’t necessarily inspire more confidence given how sparingly the back-up guard has played and forgettable his prior time on the floor had been. That made it all the more surprising when Ennis exploded for a career-high 20 points to go with 11 assists.
Although, Walton didn’t express much surprise over Ennis’ performance against his former team, championing his professionalism in remaining prepared to play, via Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
“He’s been begging for an opportunity,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said. “He finally got his chance tonight, he was great. … That’s why we always preach, whether you’re playing right now or not, as a professional you need to stay ready and do your work because you will get an opportunity at some point and you gotta be ready to take advantage of it and tonight Tyler was.”
Ennis did so in the same way tons of semi-experienced point guards who come out of nowhere to unexpectedly dominate a random game do, by getting to the basket. He was incredible at both getting to and finishing at the rim against the Rockets, with all of his eight made baskets coming around the rim.
And Ennis was making the type of finishes that display just how hard he’s worked to continue to stay ready for any situation despite languishing on the bench for most of the season, such as his nifty reverse to help the Lakers keep pace with Houston in overtime.
Ennis’ work around the basket also allowed him to draw four free throws, and in a (sadly) atypical outcome for the Lakers this season, he made four. Ennis is never going to supplant Ball in the rotation, and likely won’t play much if at all when Ball returns.
However, his success against the Rockets showed that despite being just 23 years old, Ennis is a true professional who is ready to contribute when his number is called, and that type of reputation could keep him around the fringes of the NBA for years to come.
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