Even though they were playing without LeBron James and Dennis Schroder, the Los Angeles Lakers came up with arguably their most impressive win of the 2020-21 season after defeating the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.
It was a slog of a game as both teams performed well on the defensive end of the floor, but it was the Lakers who managed to eke out more plays in the tightly contested showdown of two of the Western Conference’s best. One of the primary reasons why the Lakers ended up walking away with the win was because of their veterans off the bench, namely Wesley Matthews and Marc Gasol.
Matthews and Gasol combined for 18 points, with most of them coming in the second half to go along with hard-nosed defense. It was gutty performance from the Lakers and Matthews emphasized that this was a victory the team had to earn considering their recent struggles.
“Less than ideal I would say,” Matthews said of the lack few weeks. “Pretty much sums it up. It’s on all spectrums, losing, injuries, losses to all these teams that are NBA teams and NBA players and got a lot of talent, but we hold ourselves to a different bar, a different standard.
“So losing is unacceptable, period, but under .500 out of playoff contention, that’s something that’s really unacceptable. Going into this game it was just gonna be about heart. We know what the outside noise is saying, but it’s got to be from everybody in this room, everybody in this organization just digging a little bit deeper and showing some heart, showing some fight and that’s what we were able to do tonight.”
The veteran guard also acknowledged that while the win was much-needed Los Angeles still has more work to do.
“Just the heart, the togetherness. Being able to hold each other accountable and to be able to do that, you got to hold yourself accountable and put your foot in the ground. Put your feet in the ground, feet in the sand, whatever the phrase is that you want to say or want to use and put it into it. And that’s what we were able to do. Obviously it’s one win, it’s a big win, but we need more. We’re not just gonna be like ‘OK, we beat the Denver Nuggets.’ What about the last six games? We got to continue to build on what we did, enjoy this one and get back to scrapping and fighting again.”
Matthews is right in that it is just one win, but this was a victory that quelled some concerns about the team and their chances of repeating as champions because of how poor they have played in recent weeks. For the first time in a while, the Lakers looked like they actually cared about the outcome of the game and they played with the fire and intensity of a team that was hungry for a win.
It was a step in the right direction, but whether or not the Purple and Gold can build on it remains to be seen. For now, though, it was good to see them get back in the win column.
Matthews on what 2020-21 season has taught him
Matthews signed with the Lakers in the offseason expecting to be the team’s starting shooting guard, but soon found himself coming off the bench and eventually out of the rotation. Despite the lack of a role, Matthews has remained positive throughout the year and performed well when called upon.
After the win against Denver, Matthews reflected on the lessons he has learned so far.
“Patience. Patience, it’s work, confidence. You got to keep going. You just got to keep going and it’s made me more of believer in faith. You can’t see it, faith is blind, but you know it’s there and you just got to keep going. You got to wake up every single day and you got to keep doing what you do, whatever that is. Whether that’s taking care of your body, getting up extra shots, whether that’s going and lifting, whether that’s cardio, whatever it is. You got to keep going and that’s just a lesson that I’ve already known but it has been amplified and it applies to anything.”
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