At the start of Monday’s fourth quarter against the Dallas Mavericks, Josh Hart didn’t want Luke Walton to get any ideas.
“We had been struggling a little bit in the fourth so we were a little tighter on the rotation as far as guys that were in a good groove, and the way the third ended we had some momentum going,” Walton said. “So I was leaning toward taking him out to give him a few minutes.”
Hart had played the whole third quarter, but he wanted to stay in the game.
“I’m a dog. I think that’s just the biggest thing,” Hart said. “I told him after the third quarter I walked into him, the last several games he took me out in the beginning of the fourth, I just walked up to him, I said I’m not tired, don’t take me out of the game. Just straight up.
“I was one of the [people] picking up full court. I pride myself on being a junkyard dog. And I failed in that aspect the last several games. So I wanted to pick it up today.”
Hart played 43 minutes 42 seconds, including all of the second half. He scored 14 points with 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals, the most points, rebounds and assists he’s had in one game. He had a game-best plus-minus rating of 16.
For part of the game, Hart was tasked with guarding Dallas rookie Luka Doncic. Both Hart and Doncic got the best of each other at times. And while Doncic scored 27 points, leading the Mavericks, Hart felt comfortable with how he played Doncic.
“I wanted to pick him up full and see what his dog was,” Hart said. “That was the biggest thing, he had a couple tough shots and obviously I was happy with that, I don’t really care. I just wanted to see what his dog was, and I just knew, just get up in him, be physical with him and see what happens.”
Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma returned after missing two games with a bruised lower back.
Kuzma said he felt a little bit tight during Monday night’s game as he worked back from the injury.
“He was huge for us tonight,” Walton said. “He hit some shots when we needed him to. He took a lot of shots, but just the way he’s attacking the rim and collapsing the defense helps us get out and go. And he’s got such a good competitive energy about him, I think it’s contagious as well.”
Kuzma’s rhythm will take some time to return, too. He missed his first eight shots and made only four of 20 all game.
“Everybody knows that I’m a threat offensively,” Kuzma said.
“Whether I’m missing or making shots, you have to respect me being out on the floor, and Brandon [Ingram] had a great game, Zo [Lonzo Ball] and Josh too.”
In the past four seasons, LeBron James has missed 21 games.
He didn’t sit out any last season, but sat out eight in the 2016-17 season and six in the 2015-16 season.
Without him during that span, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost every game.