Los Angeles-- A little boy wearing a No. 6 LeBron James jersey over a white t-shirt with matching LeBron socks was standing on the corner of section 108 in the Lakers arena.
He was pressed against the glass, with his hands cupping his mouth, so the players would have a better chance of hearing him, as he shouted their names. “LeBron,” he said over and over. “Rui” and then Rui looked over at him after the third shout. He ran up the stairs, probably to report back to his parents, and then returned, “AD, ADDDDD, AD,” “D’Lo” he said a few times. And then as the lights lowered, he lowered his hands to his side and retreated to his seat.
A name the young Laker fan didn’t get around to shouting? Lonnie Walker IV. But chances are after the 24-year-old's crucial, fourth quarter performance in tonight’s 104-101 win over Golden State, he will next time.
After the game, after Walker scored all 15 of his points in the final frame, more than half of his team’s 27 fourth-quarter points, Lonnie’s teammates huddled around him, Bron, AD, Rui, D’Lo, everybody. They embraced their teammate, who, despite not always having the most consistent minutes, never counted himself out.
“It means a lot,” Lonnie said of his teammates’ confidence and support. “I really can’t put it into words, I’m truly ecstatic to be in this situation. But to have my teammates be there with me through thick and thin, it’s a great feeling honestly. I’m really going to cherish this day and soak it all in.”
There were a few legends in attendance for Game 4. Jack Nicholson made his debut after a two-year absence at Round 1, Game 6 and he chose this Lakers home game for Round 2.
The Showtime Lakers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and their Assistant Coach throughout the eighties, Bill Bertka, were all in the building as well. And the Glove, Gary Payton, was in the crowd too, only he was cheering for the opposing side as the others mentioned above. Payton’s son, Gary Payton II is on Golden State’s squad and found his way into the starting lineup tonight.
The change in Warriors’ Head Coach, Steve Kerr’s lineup garnered some attention before the game.
Would GP2 be tasked with dimming D’Angelo Russell’s offensive luster?
Was this the adjustment Golden State’s game plan has been missing this series?
Payton did stifle D’Lo who couldn’t really get going and finished with four points off foul shots, but nobody had a plan ready for what Walker would bring.
“He was special,” LeBron James said of Walker’s 15 points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
In fact, Lonnie’s close-out scoring ability made him the first Lakers bench player to score 15+ points in the fourth quarter of a playoff game since Kobe Bryant—exactly 26 years ago today.
“This kid is a beautiful kid,” Darvin said of Lonnie after the game. “He fell out of the rotation through no fault of his own. We made the trade, he had the injury, it was just a lot of different circumstances that weren’t his fault. But he remained a trooper, remained professional, remained high-spirited, positive, and really kept working on his game, attacking his game every day, really staying locked in on the information—especially in these playoffs—up to the point where he was able to crack the rotation. And you know, when your mind and heart are in a good place, the body follows. I’ve seen a ton of kids, played with them, coached them, where there’s nothing but negativity because their individual circumstances aren’t what they hoped them to be, and then when they do get the opportunity unexpectedly, they fail miserably. And so, kudos to him, shout out to him. He was a huge force tonight.”
Lonnie and the Lakers will take the court up North on Wednesday with the difficult possibility of closing out this series.