Los Angeles Lakers wing Wesley Matthews put up one of his best performances of the season on Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In 26 minutes, Matthews had 16 points and two steals on 5-of-7 from the field and 4-for-5 from deep.
He was key in the Lakers securing overtime win without Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso in action. What made his night even more impressive is the narrative behind it.
Matthews, after being a part of the Lakers rotation through the first segment of the season, was benched in favor of a nine-man lineup that more prominently featured Talen Horton-Tucker. Because of this, the veteran shooter had not seen the court in the past four games.
Much like Jared Dudley always says, Matthews spoke about staying ready and keeping the faith in order to contribute, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Just a lot of faith. Keeping the faith. This obviously was something different for me, but I credit my coaching staff for the communication and consistent encouragement, my teammates, my friends, my family. Trusting everything I’ve done up until this point in my career and just staying ready. It’s about being a Laker, being a pro, being the best you can be whenever your name is called. I’m just thankful God allowed us to win and to have a performance like this.”
Regardless of whether or not Davis and Caruso are back on Wednesday, Matthews has proven — at least for the time being — that he deserves to be a part of the rotation. If head coach Frank Vogel is willing to extend back to a 10-man lineup, then there would be minutes available to someone who was ready when called upon.
Nights like Monday are exactly why the Lakers signed Matthews using their bi-annual exception within hours of free agency beginning. They knew what he could bring at his best, and they were also fully aware that if he wasn’t at his best, they have the depth in place to survive without him playing.
Lakers identity defined by more than talent
While the Lakers undeniably have a talented roster, LeBron James said the team’s identity is more than just that aspect.
“If you really sit down and watch a 48-minute game, the way we play the game offensively and defensively, you’ll see it’s more than just talent,” James said.
“For us, we want to play harder than teams, we want to dive on loose balls, we want to take charges, we want to get our hands on deflections and things of that nature,” he said. “That’s who we are as well.
“Yes, we have the talent. We have a lot of talent, but at the end of the day, it will only get you so far. We do the dirty things as well.”
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