The final box score from the Lakers’ pulsating 111-109 victory over Oklahoma City on Tuesday night shows Nick Young with zero steals. Don’t believe it. It’s a lie. Or, as Lakers Coach Luke Walton said, taking it one step further, “It’s absolute BS.”
It doesn’t count as a steal when you swipe a pass intended for your own teammate, but that’s exactly what Young did before rising up from behind the three-point line to drill the game-winning jump shot with five seconds remaining.
“That play was designed for someone else,” Young said.
Oklahoma City staged a furious fourth-quarter rally, erasing all of a 14-point deficit in the final seven minutes behind star guard Russell Westbrook, who scored 17 of his 34 points, including four three-point shots, in the final 6 minutes and 44 seconds.
Westbrook’s drive and bounce pass to Steven Adams for a dunk pulled the Thunder to within 108-107 with 48.7 seconds left.
Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. missed a jump hook from the right baseline with 24 seconds left, and Oklahoma City took a 109-108 lead when Adams muscled his way past Jordan Clarkson and Young underneath to put back a rebound of a Westbrook miss with 13.9 seconds left.
The Lakers, after inbounding the ball near midcourt, went into a weave, with Brandon Ingram cutting in from the left side and tossing a pass that was clearly intended for Lou Williams at the top of the key.
But Young, streaking from right to left, snagged the pass and elevated high into the air before making a 27-foot jumper to put the Lakers ahead. Westbrook’s desperation three-pointer at the buzzer clanged off the rim, and the Lakers ended a two-game losing streak.
“He stole that pass — he should get a steal on the stat sheet,” Walton said. “I told him if you steal the pass you better make the shot, and it was a pretty incredible shot. Obviously, that’s one of the reasons we like Nick on the court at the end of games. He’s not afraid of the moment. He loves the moment.”
So did a few former Lakers whom Young, a Los Angeles native who played college basketball at USC, grew up watching.
“Aw, it means a lot, you know?” said Young, whose three-pointer before the halftime buzzer gave the Lakers a 49-48 lead. “I mean, watching Robert Horry shots and all that, Kobe’s and Derek Fishers’ 0.4 seconds and all that. Except mine’s kind of unique. I stole it from my own teammate.”
Williams, who scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, was preparing to catch the ball and shoot it … until he wasn’t.
“I thought it looked like it was coming to me, but I just saw a flash of yellow run in front of me, grab the ball, and before I could react, it was in the air and it was a good bucket,” Williams said. “It’s exactly how we drew it up.”
Clarkson scored a team-high 18 points for the Lakers, who improved to 8-7, and five other players scored in double figures — Young (17), Timofey Mozgov (16), Williams (13), Jose Calderon (12) and Nance (11).
Calderon, filling in for injured point guard D’Angelo Russell, made four of five three-point shots, dished out four assists and had two steals.
“The focus we had, especially for a young team, was good,” Walton said. “It’s easy to quit when they’re coming downhill and everything they shoot is going in.
“Brandon hit some big threes in the fourth, and guys kept trusting each other, making plays. I definitely think it’s another step in gaining confidence and learning how to hold off that runaway train that’s coming.”
Young played Westbrook straight up for most of the game and held him to 17 points on seven-for-19 shooting through 31/2 quarters.
Westbrook was so frustrated after his fastbreak attempt was blocked by Young with 2:48 left in the second quarter that he nearly tackled Luol Deng after the Lakers forward grabbed the deflection. Westbrook was hit with a flagrant-one foul.
The Lakers trapped Westbrook and forced him into a traveling violation with 8:04 left in the game. Westbrook air-balled a three-pointer with 7:25 left, and Nance deflected a Westbrook pass to Clarkson for a turnover that led to Nance’s dunk on the other end and a 97-83 Lakers lead with 6:44 left.
But Westbrook, who entered with the NBA’s second-highest scoring average of 31.6 points a game, asserted himself from that point on and nearly brought the Thunder back.
“I thought we did a pretty good job on Russ for most of the night, just making it hard on him,” Walton said. “But I’ve said it before, a superstar, you’re never going to shut down.”