Lonzo Ball sat on the ground as his fifth three-point basket rattled around in the rim and bounced up a few inches. As the ball sank through the net, he sprang up and ran back on defense, having just given the Lakers a two-point lead, their largest of the game at that point.
Ball wasn’t finished.
On the Lakers’ next possession, he coolly sank one more to give the Lakers a three-point lead. At the ensuing timeout, Ball ran toward a jubilant bench, gave a hip bump to Tyler Ennis, then sat down like nothing happened. The rookie who spent the entire fall having his shot dissected and ridiculed clapped back at anyone who didn’t believe what he knew all along.
“When I’m open, I’m gonna shoot,” Ball said. “People still guarding me going under so I’m gonna keep shooting.”
Ball made three three-pointers in the game’s final 2 minutes 46 seconds to help the Lakers complete a comeback against the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers beat the Spurs 116-112. They did it after trailing by as many as 17 points.
Ball finished with six three pointers on 10 attempts and became the first Laker in franchise history to make at least six three-pointers with 11 assists in one game.
“There’s no other rookie in the league that was getting dissected like he was,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said. “And he was playing great. He was doing all the things we love about him, he was passing, he was playing defense, he was rebounding. He just was missing his shots. …
“I’m happy for him that he doesn’t have to do that anymore but more importantly it’s nice to see that he’s starting to figure out how to shoot it from that distance in this league, how to get that shot off, because it helps so much when he’s hitting them.”
With this win, the Lakers have gone undefeated on their four-game trip, having also defeated the Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat. With the win, the Lakers improved to 28-34, while the Spurs fell to 36-27.
This five-game winning streak is the Lakers’ longest of the season. It’s the first time since the 2008-09 season that the Lakers have completed a trip 4-0 or better.
Both teams were short-handed. The Spurs lacked stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.
The Lakers didn’t have Brandon Ingram, out with a hip flexor injury, and started Kyle Kuzma. Key rookie Josh Hart was in Los Angeles, recovering from hand surgery.
Travis Wear signed a 10-day contract to help fill some gaps for the Lakers. Luol Deng, who hasn’t played since the season opener, found himself active for the second consecutive game.
Down 10 with 6:02 left, Ball missed a three-point shot. Walton knew how confident his rookie was in his shot, but he added a voice to reinforce that for Ball.
“I probably have as much confidence in him as anyone, taking a three-point shot,” Walton said. “So I saw he was a little frustrated so I just told him at the timeout, that’s a great shot and if they go under [the screen] again, shoot it again.”
It was the same message Ball had received throughout the season, as he worked to adjust to the NBA game.
In November, Ball made only 30.4% of his shots and 24.3% of his three-pointers, this after shooting 41% from three during his year at UCLA. His teammates and coaches told him to keep shooting, and Ball said that’s just what he’d do. In the past four games he’s played, he’s made 14 of 24 three-point attempts.
“He went from hitting the side of the backboard to he can’t miss now,” Randle said.
They needed that late.
With 3:50 to play, Wear scored to cut the Lakers’ deficit to five, then plucked a rebound off the rim, which led to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hitting a three-pointer to make it a two-point game. After a Spurs score, Ball hit a three out of the next timeout to make it 105-104.
Randle took it inside through what seemed like the entire Spurs roster and got fouled. He made both free throws to give the Lakers their first lead with 1:59 left.
Ball hit two more three-pointers, both times giving the Lakers the lead back after Pau Gasol put the Spurs ahead with a score and then tied it at the line.
He left behind any notion that this was something he couldn’t do.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli