After grabbing one crucial defensive rebound with authority, Ball immediately flung the ball up court to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a 3-pointer that deflated the Chicago Bulls and sent the Staples Center crowd into an unexpected celebration Tuesday night.
This was far from the sometimes passive rookie the Lakers have seen at times this season. And the rest of his teammates were every bit as engaged and in battle mode as their point guard was. Down by 19 in the third quarter and looking as cooked as a turkey this Thanksgiving, the Lakers yet again refused to quit after falling behind big. But this time they came away with their biggest comeback of the season.
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“They’re soft. They don’t know how to coach my son,” LaVar Ball told Bleacher Report in discussing the Lakers’ approach to coaching his son. Lonzo Ball has two triple-doubles but has generally struggled with his shot through 17 games as a pro.
With Ball hitting the glass like a dominant big man for the second straight game and even hitting a momentum-turning 3-pointer, the Lakers produced an inspired 103-94 win over the Bulls that wasn’t decided until the final three-plus minutes.
Seemingly every Laker who played meaningful minutes contributed. While this win over a lowly team might not matter much in the big picture, it’s one that could go a long way for a roster full of young players still very much coming together and learning nightly lessons on what it takes to win. In the fourth quarter, it was easy to see how much focus and fight the Lakers had and how well they all played together.
“It is always nice to get a win like that first off, but anytime you get to go out and compete and you look to your right and your left and everybody on the team is competing just as hard as you, it is always going to be fun out there,” said Ball, whose first 18 NBA games has been filled with roller coaster-like dips and climbs. “It makes it a lot better when we win.”
The Lakers (8-10) have won two straight for the second time this season. A major component in this Lakers’ winning streak has been Ball’s relentless rebounding. Assistant coach Brian Shaw suggested that Ball focus on hitting the glass because when he rebounds, he has the ball in his hands quicker, he’s playing more aggressively, moving and pushing the pace and it seems to ignite the rest of his game.
Following up his second triple-double, which featured a career-high 16 rebounds, Ball snagged 13 boards to go with eight points, four assists and only one turnover, none coming in the second half. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Ball and Magic Johnson are the only starting rookie point guards with 13 or more rebounds in back-to-back games since the ABA-NBA merger.
Not only did Ball play in the fourth quarter after sitting on the bench during recent fourth quarters against Phoenix and Philadelphia last week, but his impact was massive. Ball, who was a plus-16 in the quarter, entered the game with the Lakers down 87-80 with 6:49 left and his 3-pointer sparked a game-changing 23-7 run.
There were several highlights during the Lakers’ comeback but perhaps none more backbreaking for the Bulls than Ball’s defensive rebound and fling to Caldwell-Pope for an open in-rhythm 3-pointer that turned a two-point game into a 97-92 Lakers’ lead with 1:42 left. The Bulls (3-12) never recovered.
This night started with Lakers coach Luke Walton having to answer questions about LaVar Ball telling Bleacher Report that he feels the coaching staff has been too “soft” on his son. Those close to the elder Ball indicated to ESPN that he meant that the coaches could be harder on his son rather than criticizing the Lakers’ staff.
The Lakers then came out and were horrible at times in the first half, almost as if they were looking ahead to the Thanksgiving break. After playing a back-to-back set against Chicago and then a game in Sacramento on Wednesday, the Lakers have a rare four-day break before playing the Clippers on Monday.
Ball picks up 13 rebounds in Lakers’ victory Lonzo Ball drops eight points, picks up 13 rebounds and dishes out four assists to help the Lakers past the Bulls 103-94 at Staples Center.
Certainly, the Lakers’ defense looked as if it were already on break. The Lakers watched Antonio Blakeney explode for 15 points in eight minutes and throw down a vicious one-handed dunk on Julius Randle. Denzel Valentine (17 points) also made his first four shots, including three 3-pointers.
Kyle Kuzma kept the Lakers within reach by scoring 18 of his 22 points in the first half. But a cast of Lakers came to life after halftime.
After falling behind 61-42 with 10:24 to go in the third, the Lakers mounted a furious 30-12 run to cut the deficit to one shortly before the end of the quarter. Throughout this season, the Lakers have somehow managed to keep coming at opponents despite blowing big leads or falling behind big when most young teams might fold. The Lakers can often thank subs like Jordan Clarkson and Randle for that fight.
“Tonight was definitely a group effort,” Ball said. “Second unit, shout out to them.”
After going scoreless in the first half, Randle sparked the Lakers with eight points, four rebounds and one magnificent block at the rim on Bobby Portis.
Rookie Josh Hart, who recently was called up from the G League, provided 11 energetic minutes and one impressive offensive rebound putback dunk. And Clarkson scored 10 of his 12 points in 14-plus minutes to help even the game at 80-80 with 9:32 left.
The Bulls went back up by seven, but the Lakers came charging back and took their first lead since 21-20 with a Caldwell-Pope putback with 3:06 left. Caldwell-Pope played the role of closer, scoring 11 of his 21 points in the final 3:06.
Los Angeles now will look for its first three-game winning streak, playing at Sacramento where Ball will have a much-anticipated rookie showdown against De’Aaron Fox.
Despite shooting just 8-of-26 overall and 3-of-12 from 3-point range over his past two games, Ball is playing some of his best basketball of the season because of the way he has rebounded.
“We were expecting what we got [from Ball] which is him to make winning plays,” Walton said of Ball’s fourth-quarter play. “… Zo has a knack for making winning plays and he is obviously showing that he is a very, very good rebounder and we needed that.”