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Lakers’ Talen Horton-Tucker improves with more opportunities

Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker goes up for a dunk against the Rockets.
Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker, who had a career-best 17 points Sunday, goes up for a dunk against the Rockets in Houston.
(Carmen Mandato / Getty Images)

Game by game, the Lakers are seeing growth from Talen Horton-Tucker.

The 20-year-old is a willing listener and has been able to apply the lessons he has been taught by more established teammates. That has gone a long way in Horton-Tucker’s development.

He took another step in his learning curve Sunday night, producing a career-high 17 points during the Lakers’ easy 120-102 victory over the Rockets in Houston.

It was the total game from the 6-foot-4 second-year guard that stood out.

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He was efficient on offense, missing just one of his eight field-goal attempts and only one of his three three-point tries. He also handed out three assists. He was a demon on defense, collecting four steals. He worked hard on the backboards, gathering five rebounds.

The Houston Rockets wanted to measure themselves Sunday against the Lakers, and the defending champions responded with a dominating performance for a 120-102 win.

“He does it on both sides of the floor,” Lakers star LeBron James said in a videoconference after the win. “And then he just listens. He’s a sponge. Whatever you say to him, he’s going to apply it. He’s going to accept, first, and then he’s going to apply it right away. There’s not that many young guys that can take something on the fly and then make it happen the very next play.

“You saw it tonight with his ability, obviously, to go seven for eight from the field, but also his rebounding, his assists, playmaking and then also having four steals to add on top of that. So, big-time game for him. For a kid that’s still growing into his own ... he’s beyond his years.”

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The Lakers are a deep team, loaded with a talented starting five and a strong bench. But Horton-Tucker has forced his way into having a significant role, even if he’s the 11th man on the team.

He played 21 minutes against the Rockets. Horton-Tucker received increased minutes at the wing spot because guard Wesley Matthews was out with a sore right Achilles.

“I always say I want to learn, so I feel like being a sponge is the most important thing you have to do when you’re learning, especially with guys of the caliber of the guys that we have,” he said. “So, just being a sponge has probably been the key to me doing good things.”

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Highlights from the Lakers’ 120-102 victory over the Rockets on Jan. 10, 2021, in Houston.

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Horton-Tucker put on a display of skills that had his teammates cheering him on Sunday.

He posted up down low on one play and used his footwork for an up-and-under layup.

He collected a defensive rebound and then threw a length-of-the-court pass to Anthony Davis for a basket.

He poked the ball away from Eric Gordon on one defensive play, leading to Alex Caruso diving on the floor for the ball. Horton-Tucker quickly reacted again, hustling downcourt for a dunk off the pass from Caruso.

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Horton-Tucker’s steal on the next Lakers defensive stand led to a three-pointer by Kyle Kuzma.

“I feel like you can put me anywhere on the court,” Horton-Tucker said. “You can put me on any group that we have, and I feel like I can get some things done and just help us win the game. Just trying to make winning plays on both ends. I feel like you can throw me anywhere. [There’s] really not a place that I just feel specifically comfortable yet because I’m actually kind of being thrown in everywhere.”


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