Will Barton Returns to Thrilling Form Against Lakers

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider

The media horde was back at Will Barton’s locker on Monday night, patiently waiting for the man of the hour to put the finishing touches on his outfit, in order to get his view on the latest state of his game.

Minutes earlier, Barton had put the finishing touches on his most productive game in a month – 22 points and six assists in the Nuggets’ win over the L.A. Lakers. Prior to the game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone sounded off on how the team just needed Barton to be Barton. It turned out to be a timely subject, because Barton did just that.

He got back to being himself.

Afterward, Barton’s big night afforded Malone the opportunity to gush about it.

“We needed that, man,” Malone said. “Will Barton is a very important piece and we all know that. Since the break, he just hadn’t found his groove. (Monday), to see him shoot the ball as well as he did from three; to be the playmaker that he was. He gets 22 points and six assists off the bench. That was fantastic. Hopefully, this can get him going. Because when Will is like that off the bench it gives us a whole other element. And that was great to see.”

In the 10 games after the All-Star break prior to Monday night, Barton had struggled out the gate, averaging just 9.6 points and shooting just 38.1 percent from the field and 23.7 percent from the 3-point line. But that all changed against the Lakers.

Barton heated up quickly, scoring eight of the Nuggets’ final 12 points of the first quarter, making all three of his shots in the process. Two of those were 3-pointers. His roll continued in the second quarter, and when the dust settled on the first half Barton had scored 19 points and made 6-of-8 shots, including all three of his tries from the arc.

He put the cap on his 22-point night in the fourth quarter.

Malone and Barton had talked days earlier, and the message the coach wanted to send to one of his most explosive scorers was he remained a necessary cog in the Nuggets machine. The team needed Will Barton hitting on all cylinders.

“It helped me a lot,” said Barton of the talk with Malone. “I have trust in this coaching staff. When they tell me they believe in me and I’m a big part of this team, and they tell me I’m a big part of this team and they need me to play well, it does a lot for my confidence. I was overthinking a lot. I’m kind of playing a new role coming off the bench, kind of playing the point, (and I was) overthinking. Thinking ‘should I take this shot, should I not?’ instead of just being myself.”

“(Monday) I just wanted to come out and be aggressive, and that’s what I did.”