Lonzo Ball vs. Oklahoma City
Lonzo Ball drives against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 17, 2019.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

Young Lakers Answer Call in Overtime Comeback at OKC

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

When a controversial call against Lonzo Ball allowed Oklahoma City to force overtime, the Lakers’ sophomore point guard didn’t dwell on his misfortune.

Instead, Ball guided his team through the extra period, taking the lead for good by winning a jump ball against a player three inches taller than him before swishing the go-ahead 3-pointer from video-game-range.

Ball finished the night with 18 points and 10 assists, as the Lakers put forth a titanic effort for a come-from-behind 138-128 overtime victory against the Thunder.

“We know that Zo can do it,” coach Luke Walton said. “It’s what we know he can become and it’s what we encourage him to do as often as possible. You can see it when he has that confidence going. … He can do a little bit of everything when he’s feeling like that.”

The Lakers’ 10-point victory was all the more impressive considering they dug themselves into an early 17-point deficit.

But the young core was determined to rein the Thunder back in.

Kyle Kuzma had the night’s hot hand, pouring in 32 points, including a whopping seven 3-pointers on only 12 attempts. Kuzma entered the night shooting just 29.6 percent from 3-point range, but was lethal for a team that made a season-high 19 triples.

Meanwhile, Ivica Zubac had himself a career night down low, racking up a personal-best 26 points on 12-of-14 shooting, while battling for a dozen rebounds (including six on the offensive glass).

“He’s really been big for us all year,” Ball said of Zubac. “Every time he’s gotten minutes he’s producing. Today we had him on the floor. Didn’t look like he was tired to be that big. I was proud of him.”

Josh Hart served as the Lakers’ energy generator, pitching in a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double while making one hustle play after another. And although Brandon Ingram shot just 1-of-9 from the field, he directed the offense with a career-high 11 assists.

“We got contributions from everybody,” Walton said. “This is a really hard place to win. That’s a playoff team.”

Indeed, Oklahoma City (26-18) currently occupies third place in the Western Conference — five spots ahead of the Lakers (25-21). And it was certainly a postseason atmosphere as L.A. mounted its comeback.

The rally revolved around the Lakers’ offense, which had plummeted since LeBron James went down with a groin injury. But they were scorching against the Thunder, shooting 50.5 percent and handing out 37 assists.

However, OKC was unconscious from downtown, hitting a franchise-record 22 3-pointers. Down by three in the final seconds of regulation, the Thunder tied the game on a so-called “3-point attempt,” as Ball intentionally fouled Russell Westbrook, who hoisted a shot after the contact.

Referee Tom Washington admitted that the officiating crew should have given Westbrook two free throws, but they awarded one more and he hit all three to send the game to OT.

Despite the momentum swinging in OKC’s favor, the Lakers held strong and dominated the overtime period. Ball hit his big triple and added a driving layup. Kuzma struck on a pull-up jumper. Zubac scored at the rim and assisted on Ingram’s game-sealing dunk.

And they were even more impressive on defense, holding Oklahoma City to 2-of-13 shooting in overtime, outscoring their hosts 16-6.

It was message delivered on the road, in front of a nationally televised audience. Among those that took notice: two guys called Magic and the King.

Notes
The Lakers shot a season-best 19-of-21 on free throws. ... Westbrook had 26 points and 13 assists, shooting just 2-of-18 inside the arc, but 5-of-12 on 3s. … OKC received big performances from Paul George (27 points), Terrence Ferguson (21 points, six 3-pointers) and Steven Adams (17 points, 15 rebounds). … L.A. had huge advantages in bench scoring (61-23), points in the paint (56-24) and rebounding (63-44). … The Lakers overcame committing 24 turnovers.

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