(Harry How/Getty Images North America)
Bullock proving to be the missing piece in Lakers' rotation
Regardless of name or fame, what Luke Walton and the Lakers needed down the stretch was a very specific type of player.
That was someone that could defend on the perimeter while being able to hold his own on switches. A veteran that wouldn’t require much time to acclimate himself to the playbook. And, more importantly, a shooter deadly enough to unlock the creativity and court vision of LeBron James, Brandon Ingram, et al.
Three games in, Reggie Bullock is shaping up to be that guy.
The Kinston, North Carolina, native was the silent hero of Thursday’s 19-point comeback against the Rockets, providing a steady presence during his 30 minutes on the court.
“I thought he was really good for us,” Walton said. “Defensively we asked him to pick up (James) Harden full court, deny him when he could, force him right and force him off the 3-point line. We asked a lot of him, and when he had open shots, he knocked them down, including a really big 3 late in the fourth. And that’s what we’re going to need when LeBron gets double-teamed late in the game.”
Bullock was Harden’s primary defender, and they matched up 45 times during the game. The Rockets’ star shot 7-for-15 against him, with a single triple on five attempts, and just a pair of assists. On top of that, Bullock forced the NBA’s leading scorer into four turnovers.
“He did a really, really good job on Harden,” Ingram said. “Reading the game plan and just trying to contest his shots and make it difficult for him. He was really, really solid on both ends.”
The former Piston was also making his STAPLES Center debut wearing the purple and gold, and he was well aware of it.
“It was great being back here in the city,” he said, a reference to the couple of seasons he played for the L.A. Clippers between 2013-15. “Like I said, I was a Lakers fan growing up, being here at STAPLES, putting on a Laker jersey, being a part of such a great organization…I’m glad they came and found me. I’m glad to be here.”
His happiness matches the Lakers’. In a trio of games since his arrival (Sixers, Hawks, Rockets), the small forward is shooting 7-for-16 from long range – supplying oxygen to an offense that had been lacking exterior accuracy all season long.
And none of those shots was more significant than his corner bomb with 1:32 left in the game, which represented the dagger that put away the Rockets.
That sequence, straight from Walton’s lab, was perfectly executed by his teammates, but earlier in the season it might not have been rewarded.
“We worked on it in practice the last day and a half,” Walton said. “The guys did a really good job. I think it was a Josh Hart cut out, and then B.I. set that little flare screen on the only guy left on that corner. Give those guys credit for making the little plays too, but we have to be ready to knock down shots, and (Bullock) did that tonight.”
“He was really good, getting to his spots and knocking his shot down,” Ingram said. “He was shot-ready at all times.”
LeBron dished out the assist, and made sure to credit the Lakers newest weapon after the game.
“He’s a vet,” he said. “Not only defensively was he in tune with the game plan, just trying to put pressure and make it tough on James, and when he got his looks, he knocked them down. It’s great to have a shooter of his caliber, his size, and his competitive nature on the floor. He was big for us.”
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