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Montrezl Harrell expands game to assist in Lakers win

Lakers center Montrezl Harrell celebrates after dunking against the Timberwolves.
Lakers center Montrezl Harrell celebrates after dunking against Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels, right, and guard Ricky Rubio on Tuesday night.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Lakers center Montrezl Harrell took a pass from Dennis Schroder on the wing, the two of them now setting up a two-man game early in the fourth quarter. Schroder cut backdoor and Harrell threw a nifty bounce pass to the guard for a layup.

Harrell had displayed another facet to his game — passing — to go along with his ability to score for the Lakers in a 137-121 defeat of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

His six assists tied his career high, making it the fifth time Harrell has accomplished that feat.

And, yes, Harrell was a force offensively, dropping in 25 points on 11-for-16 shooting. He also had four rebounds.

“Ah man, he’s just playing with a lot of intensity, and it’s something that we really need, especially right now in the regular season,” Kyle Kuzma said on a videoconference after the game. “Someone that’s playing extremely hard. Obviously, he’s done a really good job within pick and roll, catching the ball, finishing every time, so he’s huge for us.”

When the Lakers threw the knock-out punch in the fourth quarter, Harrell helped to deliver the big blows, scoring 12 of his points on six-for-seven shooting.

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After Harrell set up Schroder, the Lakers center was then set up for baskets on multiple occasions by LeBron James, who had a triple-double with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.

James is fully aware of how Harrell and Lou Williams had such a dynamic pick-and-roll game with the Clippers the last few seasons. It led to Harrell being named the NBA’s sixth man of the year.

“Automatically, when we got him, I knew it could be something that we could exploit because my ability to play the pick-and-roll game, my ability to pass the ball and his ability to catch and finish,” James said on Zoom. “So, I think as of late, we know where we are on the floor, we know the sets that we’re in and he’s doing a hell of a job of being able to set screens for me, get me downhill and then I’m just trying to put it on time, on target before he gets to his game.”

James found Harrell rolling to the basket for a dunk and a 109-98 Lakers lead in the fourth quarter. James hit Harrell with a pocket-pass for a dunk and a 111-100 lead. James then hit Harrell for a lob pass for a dunk and a 113-102 lead.

“He’s obviously the best reader of pick-and-roll action in the game,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said about James. “Trezz is a dynamic roller. We tweaked the spacing, gave a little bit of a different look tonight with that action we were running, and Minnesota had a hard time figuring it out. So, we have a mindset with our system that if we run a play and it works, we keep running it. Bron just put on a masterpiece in finding three, four, maybe even five options out of that action.”

And then there was the moment when Harrell did what he seems to do best, rebound and score in tight quarters.

After Wesley Matthews missed a shot, Harrell tapped the ball twice to keep it alive. Once he retrieved the basketball, Harrell threw down a two-handed dunk for a 123-109 Lakers lead.

It was another stellar game for Harrell.


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