Austin Reaves’ buzzer-beating three rescues Lakers in OT thriller vs. Mavericks
LeBron James’ deep three missed so badly it could’ve fractured the glass backboard — the only thing keeping the shot from rocketing into the Mavericks’ crowd. Anthony Davis’ corner three sailed over the rim, failing to even graze the iron.
And Wayne Ellington’s wide-open look from above the break missed it all, as bad of a miss that an open quality shooter could imagine.
But the clock kept ticking long enough for redemption — for the team’s awful late-game shooting to be undone with one sweet stroke from the deep left corner.
“Guys are just trusting — trusting the work that they put in it,” James said.
Reaves hit a wild three with just fractions of a second left to lead the Lakers to a 107-104 win in overtime Wednesday.
It’s just the second time this season the Lakers have won three in a row. In the best stretch of the season, the team has won six of its last eight games.
Wednesday’s win had as many big shots as bad misses, the Mavericks, playing without Luka Doncic, answering every challenge. But the Lakers got the last shot — and it went to the undrafted rookie from a tiny Arkansas town with the clock set to expire.
During a possession that Frank Vogel felt exemplified what he’s been preaching, the ball swung from James to Ellington to Westbrook, who drove the paint and kicked it to Reaves for the game winner.
“I think Russell’s the guy that needs to be celebrated as much as Austin. Because that’s everything we’ve talked about with our group,” Vogel said. “Balancing our talent is going to be about trusting the next man, and the open man is more talented than any one individual. And for Russell to drive the paint in a moment like that … trust a teammate with the extra pass and get rewarded with the extra pass is a big growth moment for our team.”
Austin Reaves knows he has the respect of LeBron James and his Lakers teammates, and he rewarded their faith in him with a game-winning three-pointer.
Reaves was greeted in the locker room with a bucket of water and an impromptu shower provided by his celebrating teammates, the game ball tucked under his arm. He left the arena still holding it.
“It’s basically been the story of my life. I’ve always been underrated. Didn’t go to a big high school, so didn’t get recruited much,” he said, still soaked from the celebration. “But at the end of the day, you got to produce on the basketball court. And for me to hit that shot, for my teammates to have the trust in me to take that shot is very, very special.”
James, who forcefully corrected a handful of Reaves’ mistakes earlier in the game, threw his hands up when the ball went through the net and celebrated with the rookie before he was interviewed on national TV.
Reaves hit five threes off the Lakers bench, the team missing three players because of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. Without Talen Horton-Tucker, Malik Monk and Dwight Howard, James led the Lakers with 24 points, Westbrook had 23 and Davis scored 20.
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But it was the smaller moments along the way — a chase-down deflection from Ellington to stop an easy break, Avery Bradley fighting with the much-taller Kristaps Porzingis and Reaves forcing misses with his defensive intensity — that mattered as much as the clutch shooting.
Vogel was quick to point it out postgame, his team’s fight, that once again came in the face of some adversity. Having already dealt with injuries all season, the Lakers find themselves in the uneasy place where it seems like the team is at the start of a COVID-19 outbreak despite being fully vaccinated.
After three players went into protocols Tuesday, including Monk who traveled with the team to Dallas, Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy and team broadcaster Bill Macdonald were among those in the team’s traveling party who contracted the virus.
Macdonald said he was asymptomatic and isolating.
The team was also without assistant David Fizdale, who missed the game for non-COVID personal reasons.
A team spokesperson would not confirm the number of people traveling with the team who are already in health and safety protocols other than to say it was more than one. Vogel wouldn’t comment on whether his players in the protocols were asymptomatic or not.
A source familiar with the leaguewide outbreak said the NBA is dealing primarily with breakthrough cases of vaccinated players who are experiencing no symptoms. The players who are symptomatic, the source said, are mostly dealing with mild issues.
“It’s difficult. It’s frustrating. You want to be able to have everybody available. But that’s just not the nature of this virus,” Vogel said pregame.
“It’s affecting teams over multiple sports. Really, obviously, even outside of sports. … It’s just one of those things where we feel like as an organization we’re doing everything the right way from a standpoint that we have a fully vaccinated team. We’re adhering to the protocols as best as we can. And it’s still, we’re at the mercy of the virus.
“So you just have to have the mindset that this is the nature of this type of season. Have a no-excuse mindset and go out and win games.”
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