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Lonzo Continues Hot Shooting with 6 3-Pointers
Lonzo Ball knows that narratives don’t die easily.
With more attention drenched on him than any rookie since LeBron James, Ball became the subject of endless debate when he shot a league-low 24.6 percent on 3-pointers over his first 25 games of the season.
While the “Lonzo can’t shoot” and “He needs to change his form” takes started flying in from every direction, Ball himself remained confident in his unorthodox shooting stroke, asserting that he has been a good shooter his entire life.
Fifteen games ago, Ball’s shot started changing that narrative. During this stretch, he has hit 44.4 percent of his 3’s (44-of-99) — the sixth-best mark in the league over this stretch.
It all culminated in San Antonio on Saturday, when Ball knocked down a season-high six 3-pointers to lead the Lakers’ 17-point comeback over the Spurs.
“Ball was amazing,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He made three or four threes (late). He just got them back in the game and at that same period we didn’t make shots.”
: Lonzo Ball became the first Laker in franchise history to hit at least 6 three-pointers with 11 assists in a single game pic.twitter.com/9AFLMU3UKf— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 4, 2018
Ball needed only 10 attempts to reach his best 3-point mark of his rookie year, and he saved three enormous shots for the final three minutes.
Having climbed within four points with 2:45 remaining, Ball ran a simple pick-and-roll with Julius Randle.
All game long, San Antonio had given Ball way too much space to shoot — daring him to fire by going under on screens and sagging off to help in the paint.
This play was no different, as Tony Parker went under Randle’s pick and Ball pulled up for a trey.
“He went from hitting the side of the backboard to he can’t miss now,” Randle said. “He’s just confident out there making plays. Making huge, huge shots down the stretch for us.”
With the deficit trimmed down to one, the Lakers went back to bully ball, letting Randle (25 points) do his thing down low.
Earlier in the play, San Antonio’s Danny Green had smartly gone over a screen in order to prevent Ball from shooting another 3, but when Randle started attacking, he abandoned Lonzo to go help.
It almost worked for Green, who nearly caused a Randle turnover. But the Lakers’ big man survived the triple-team and found Ball open on the wing.
Green still managed to get a good contest on the shot, but Ball was too hot at that point.
However, the lead provided by Ball’s triple was short-lived, as San Antonio tied the game with a couple free throws. But Lonzo was ready to deliver yet another clutch shot with about 45 seconds left.
At first he went iso on Dejounte Murray, dancing around with the Spurs’ point guard. Murray was able to stick with him until Randle — who had an assist or screen assist on all three of Ball’s clutch buckets — came over and delivered a pick that gave Lonzo just enough room to strike.
He went to his trademark step-back jumper — which he has made 10 of his last 12 — and swished the go-ahead 3-pointer.
“I’m happy for him because I felt like he was being judged so hard to start the season,” coach Luke Walton said. “There was no other rookie in the league that was getting dissected like he was.”
But Ball still wasn’t quite done. In order to ice the game, he ran one more pick-and-roll with Randle.
Ball — who had an overall stellar game with 18 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and just two turnovers — made a simple read and got Randle the ball with a long runway ahead of him to build momentum and finish at the rim.
It was a fitting end to a night that saw Ball assist Randle on five of his eight baskets.
So what happens next?
Ball has shot an unconscious 14-of-22 on 3-pointers since returning from injury four games ago. Are teams finally going to start respecting his jumper, or will they continuing going under those screens?
What’s certain is that Ball doesn’t care what outside forces — fans, media, Twitter, etc. — say about his shot.
“People are still going to hate, I think,” he said. “So it really doesn’t matter to me. I just go out and play.”