Lonzo Ball directs the offense against the San Antonio Spurs on March 3, 2018. (Credit: (Ty Nowell/Lakers.com))
When the game called for a big bucket, Lonzo Ball responded with three.The 20-year-old hit a season-high six 3-pointers — half of which came in the final three minutes — and led the Lakers to a 17-point comeback over San Antonio, 116-112.Ball needed only 10 attempts to reach his 3-point total, and has now shot 44.4 percent from deep over his last 15 games. During this span, the rookie has bucked back against the narrative that he can’t shoot, though he doesn’t necessarily expect minds to change quickly.
“People are still going to hate, I think,” he said. “So it really doesn’t matter to me. I just go out and play.”Even the Spurs (36-27) showed little concern for his jump shot, continuously sagging off of him and going under on screens. But Ball made them pay with his hottest night from deep yet.“He went from hitting the side of the backboard to he can’t miss now,” Julius Randle said. “He’s just confident out there making plays. Making huge, huge shots down the stretch for us.”Ball led the Lakers (28-34) on a 25-9 run to close the game, giving them their first lead of the night on a triple with about two minutes left.The Spurs then tied the game on free throws before Ball hit the biggest shot of his young career.With about 45 seconds left, he tried to shake off San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray and managed to get just enough room when Randle set him a screen.Murray still managed to contest the shot, but Ball’s trey swished through.
On the next possession, Ball essentially sealed the game by running a pick-and-roll with Randle, feeding the big man for a bucket at the rim.“We played so hard that game (that) we deserved it, honestly,” Randle said. “We just didn’t play smart at times, and that’s what was hurting us. The Spurs capitalize on any mistake, so we just played so hard and guys stepped up and made huge plays.”Indeed, it wasn’t a pretty start for a Lakers squad that has now won five straight since the All-Star break.L.A. started the game by shooting just 2-of-18 from the field.“I looked up and they were shooting like 60 percent and we were shooting like 17,” Randle said. “I was like, ‘Yo, what’s going on?’”It took three quarters, but the Lakers’ red-hot offense finally came alive in the fourth quarter.Randle — who led the Lakers with 25 points, mainly at the rim and via nine made free throws — scored eight points in the fourth, while South Bay Lakers call-up Travis Wear chipped in all seven of his points and some strong defense.Wear’s unexpected contributions were made even more important by the absence of Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, whose injuries made the Lakers razor-thin on the wing.But it was Ball who captained the ship, providing everything for the Lakers with 18 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.He did all of his individual scoring from beyond the 3-point line, leading the Lakers to their first four-game road sweep since the 2008-09 season.
“I’m happy for him because I felt like he was being judged so hard to start the season,” said coach Luke Walton, who played on that ’08-09 squad. “There was no other rookie in the league that was getting dissected like he was.”
Isaiah Thomas (21 points, seven assists) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (18 points, 13 rebounds) also had big games. … L.A. hit 15 3-pointers on a 44.1 percent clip. … San Antonio was led by former Laker Pau Gasol (19 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists), and had a 60-34 advantage in points in the paint. … LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard missed the game due to injuries. … A crowd of 18,557 sold out AT&T Center.