Tyler Ennis hasn’t played a major role for the Los Angeles Lakers all season, but he came through when the team needed him against the San Antonio Spurs, scoring 10 points and tossing seven assists to help lead them to an overtime victory on Wednesday.
Ennis credited his success to Lakers head coach Luke Walton finally letting him play like Isaiah Thomas. No, seriously.
“When I.T. was here playing, we ran every play for him in the second group,” Ennis began to explain. “[Walton] always tells me to be aggressive, so I told him, ‘I will if he gives me the I.T. plays and I.T. package.’ They’ve been on me about it and being aggressive with the second group. Being a playmaker because we have shooters and big men.”
The result of Walton loosening the reins was some capable backup minutes from Ennis, who posted the second-highest plus-minus on the team with a +16, and Walton liked what he saw from his journeyman point guard in the role they originally designed for their score-first midseason addition.
“Tyler was great. I thought he was good in Utah, too. Because we were so banged-up, we were going through shootaround and I was doing 5-on-0 with him and we were calling pretty much every play for him,” Walton said.
“He kind of joked that he’s got the Isaiah Thomas package now that Isaiah’s out. I said, ‘You get the package if you want to take advantage of it.’ So he asked for it. I thought he did a really nice job of being aggressive tonight, making big plays for us, making big shots for us.”
Ennis’ stellar production out of nowhere helped the Lakers manage a season sweep of the Spurs for the first time in 20 years. And while letting Ennis loose with as many possessions as he swallowed up against the Spurs won’t always be a tenable option, for now the Lakers need help where they can get it.
The improved play from Ennis also offered further proof that he isn’t a traditional floor general like Lonzo Ball who is going to look to get others involved first.
That isn’t necessarily a knock on Ennis, just an observation meant to point out that if the Lakers are going to run him out there, they need to empower him to let his playmaking flow out of his attacking.
Against the Spurs that strategy worked, and the Lakers will probably need another similar effort from Ennis if they don’t want their win over the Spurs to be their last of the season.