Lopez Leads Lakers' Last-Second Win Over Orlando
With the game on the line, the Lakers went to what worked all night long: giving the ball to Brook Lopez.
Down by one with just five seconds remaining, L.A. inbounded to Lopez, who put a nifty spin move on Nikola Vucevic, forcing the Orlando center to foul him.
Lopez cooly hit both clutch free throws, giving the Lakers a 108-107 win in the final seconds.
“I knew I was gonna hit them,” Lopez said. “Just had to be confident.”
Lopez tormented Vucevic all night long, scoring 27 points on a 12-of-18 clip.
The 7-footer has spent the majority of the season stretching the floor for the Lakers with his 3-point shooting. So coach Luke Walton was happy for him to have the opportunity to break out the post moves that have defined most of his career.
”He’s really good, really talented,” Walton said. “With the way that we play, sometimes he doesn’t get the same opportunities as he has gotten before.
“But he did a really nice job tonight of establishing the block for us and getting down there and scoring in the paint.”
Lopez did hit one triple, but spent most of the night posting up while mixing in a few drives and pick-and-rolls.
“It was part of the game plan because we felt like he had an advantage on the block down there,” Walton said. “Give him a lot of credit for sticking with it all game long and continuing to bail us out and to hit big shots and knock down a couple of huge free throws for us at the end.”
It was a rough start for the Lakers, who trailed by 15 just 10 minutes into the game. But they quickly rallied and took the lead halfway through the second quarter after a 21-5 run.
The Lakers (29-35) slowly padded their advantage from there, and appeared to be jogging to the finish line with a 12-point cushion and only five minutes to go.
But the Magic (20-45) struck back in a hurry, mounting a 20-7 run capped by Aaron Gordon’s transition layup with 5.0 seconds remaining to give them a one-point edge.
Yet Lopez had one last trick, getting to the line after Vucevic knocked him on the head.
“He made a good move,” Vucevic said. “He’s a tough matchup. He’s big, he’s crafty, he’s really good at getting his own shot up.
“I don’t know if I fouled him. The refs said I hit him in the head, but I don’t know.”
The game then ended on a strange play, as the final buzzer inadvertently sounded prematurely during Orlando’s final rebuttal. Per the NBA rulebook, the oddity resulted in a jump ball at center court, which left the Magic no time to score.
It was a weird way to end a fourth quarter dominated by Lopez, who scored 11 of his points in the final frame.
Lopez wasn’t the only Laker who found success down low. Kyle Kuzma broke out of his slump by attacking inside the arc with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Lil Kuzi Vert pic.twitter.com/qFyTzK8fWO— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 8, 2018
Meanwhile, the Lakers’ point guards also did their part. Lonzo Ball provided 16 points, six rebounds and five assists. Plus, Isaiah Thomas was in slash-and-kick playmaking mode, finishing with 13 points and nine assists.
“IT was so spectacular just setting people up, getting assists, hockey assists,” Lopez said, “the whole game, but especially in the fourth quarter. He really set the tone and set the pace for us.”
Julius Randle had a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double. … Orlando was led by huge games from Gordon (28 points, 14 rebounds) and Vucevic (24 points, 12 rebounds, six assists). … A crowd of 18,997, including Russell Wilson and Ciara, sold out Staples Center.