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Tarik Black is bringing a lot of toughness to the Lakers

Lakers' Tarik Black shoots against Brooklyn's Trevor Booker on Nov. 15.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

With the third quarter winding down on Tuesday night, Lakers guard Lou Williams charged to his right and tossed a running layup at the rim.

He attracted two defenders in the process, which left Tarik Black all alone in the center of the paint. Black, stalking the play from the start, leapt as Williams’ attempt bounced off the front rim. He then jammed it through the rim with two hands, notching a highlight in the Lakers’ sloppy 125-118 win over the Nets.

The Staples Center crowd roared for a play that was emphatic, and even graceful. But make no mistake, Black does not play for style points. The 6-foot-9, fourth-year center is an old-fashioned bruiser in the middle of an evolving game. But his unrelenting approach on the offensive glass, and defensive end, has endeared him to teammates and made him a key part of the 7-5 Lakers’ second unit.

Black collected season highs with 12 points and nine rebounds against the Nets, and played a large part in turning an ugly game into a “we’ll take it” win.

“He’s been great for us all year,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said afterward. “He brings us a toughness, he gives us extra possessions on that offensive glass, blocked shots, all these things. It’s all these little things that help a team win, and he was out there doing it again tonight, especially in the second half.”

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The Nets used scrappiness to hang around on Tuesday, and the Lakers were having trouble with Brook Lopez and Trevor Booker inside.

Black’s energy shifted the interior advantage back to the Lakers in the third. He scored eight points and grabbed three of his five offensive rebounds in the quarter. He then punctuated a key Lakers run with a the put-back dunk before the third-quarter clock ran out.

His 12 points came in just 13 minutes off the bench, and he collected them by willing himself into high-percentage scoring situations.

“Just offensive glass, hitting the offensive glass strong and got us extra possessions and got a few points off that,” Black said. “Got to the free-throw line getting free points. They’re free, don’t have to work too hard for them. Just have to sit there and knock down shots, so I took advantage of that as well.”

The simple explanation for his point total could not be mirrored in how he came about a season-high five offensive rebounds.

Black described offensive rebounding as a fickle practice with little science to it. That could explain how he finished with zero offensive rebounds in 15 minutes against the Mavericks, one in 15 minutes against the Warriors and then five in 13 minutes on Tuesday. The numbers continue to spike and shrink like this, making it hard to find trends in Black’s aggressive play.

“It’s just something I’m very tenacious about, I always hit the glass hard,” Black said. “The thing about the O glass is it’s kind of like gambling. Some nights it’s on, some nights it’s off. I can hustle as much as I want to but the ball’s going to come off a certain way. Sometimes I get some, sometimes I don’t get some.”

The good thing for the Lakers is that Black is willing to gamble more often than not. It is hard to win if you don’t play.

jesse.dougherty@latimes.com

Twitter: @dougherty_jesse


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