With the Sacramento Kings roaring back on one of their protracted runs Tuesday night, the Lakers needed something dramatic to turn the tide.
Enter Brook Lopez … sharpshooter?
Lopez hit back-to-back three-point shots to quell the Kings' run. A few possessions later, he hit another three and finished the game with five.
"That's the Brook we see in practice," point guard Lonzo Ball said. "I wasn't surprised. I'm glad he found a rhythm tonight. Any time he can do that, it's going to help us."
Lopez's three-point shooting was part of why the Lakers thought he would be a good fit for coach Luke Walton's system. He worked to improve his outside game toward the end of his time with the Brooklyn Nets, adapting to the changing NBA.
Since the Lakers acquired him this summer, though, Lopez has not made multiple three-pointers in most of his games. He's made two three-pointers in six games, three in three games, four in one, five in one and six in one — against the Nets.
By contrast, Lopez made 134 three-pointers for the Nets last season, frequently making two or more in a game. It helped that he averaged nearly 30 minutes per game last season, where this season he is averaging 22 minutes per game.
"I'm just trying to be consistent," Lopez said Tuesday night. "I want to be a threat every game. I gotta believe that when I shoot it's going to go in."
When he made his fifth three-pointer, Lopez shook his hand as if it was too hot. On the possession after, he launched another one — this one more of a heat check than anything. That one everyone assumed was going in and prepared to proceed after the score. Ball followed it. When it didn't fall, he tipped in the miss.
"I thought it was going in but he made the right play and saved us," Lopez said.
Randle keeps rolling
After a third of a season adjusting to coming off the bench, forward Julius Randle entered the starting lineup on Dec. 29 against the Clippers.
Since then, Randle's minutes have been much more consistent, and so has his production. He led the team with 22 points and 14 rebounds on Tuesday. In his seven starts this season, Randle has averaged 17.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
"He is such a dynamic athlete, that when he drives the lane, when he is under control, we always get something good," Walton said. "We might not always score, but we get something good. Going against first-unit centers or power forwards, they are bigger and more talented than the second-unit guys, they collapse, they are coming in to get steals, and what we talk to him about is being constantly in control and if the shot is there, go ahead and take it."
The Lakers have often asked Randle to learn how to control his play and his movement.
"It's being aggressive, taking what the defense is giving me," Randle said. "My main focus is getting off to a good start, keep playing hard."
Ball's shoulder seemed to bother him at one point Tuesday. Ball missed six games with a shoulder sprain he suffered on Dec. 23. "Just gotta play through it," he said. "We call them stingers. I get them from time to time and I got them [Tuesday]. Just put some ice on it and be ready to go." … The Lakers did not practice Wednesday.
VS. SAN ANTONIO
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
On Air: TV: TNT, Radio: 710, 1330.
Update: The Spurs have beaten the Lakers in their last seven meetings in Staples Center. At 28-14, San Antonio has the third-best record in the Western Conference.