Talen Horton-Tucker scores 40 as Lakers’ stars get front-row seats to another loss

Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker is fouled by Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson.
Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker, right, is fouled by Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson during the first half of the Lakers’ 128-112 loss Friday.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Four veterans sat. Another was waived. The Lakers season, functionally over after being eliminated from playoff contention, still had to take the court — even if 80% of its once-projected starting lineup wasn’t available.

LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony all sat and the team cut Trevor Ariza — all while using their 40th different starting lineup of the season against the playoff-bound Golden State Warriors.

But in that void Talen Horton-Tucker delivered his best game in three seasons, a reminder of why the Lakers valued him last offseason, scoring a career-high 40 points in a 128-112 loss to the Warriors at Chase Center.


Lakers GM Rob Pelinka and advisor Kurt Rambis will face a big challenge to put together a championship roster for next season with their Big Three.

April 6, 2022

It was again another reminder of how far the Lakers fell from their early-season goals.

There was a time early in the season when the Lakers imagined potentially closing games with James, Westbrook, Davis, Anthony and Ariza. Now, with the stakes completely removed, the Lakers played with nearly all of their star power sidelined.

“LeBron’s ankle is still not ready. He wouldn’t be playing if we weren’t eliminated. And Anthony’s plantar fasciitis is causing him to limp around out there. So he’ll be out tonight and day-to-day,” coach Frank Vogel said before the game. “And Russ, him dealing with a shoulder thing that’s been slowing him down and we’re going to have him out tonight. And Melo has been trying to get over that stomach bug that he had last week and really hasn’t been quite fully recovered from that.”

Lakers guard Austin Reaves, left, talks with LeBron James during the first half Friday.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

The Lakers play at home Friday against Oklahoma City, and Vogel wouldn’t say whether any of the team’s best would be on the court for the final time this season at Arena.

“We’ll see,” Vogel said. “We haven’t ruled that out for any of those guys. We’re literally going to see how those guys are physically feeling tomorrow and make that call then. And we do recognize it’s fan appreciation day so we want to make sure that our fans feel appreciated.”

The Lakers’ playoff hopes came to end on Tuesday after losing to the Suns 121-110 in Phoenix and the San Antonio Spurs winning in Denver.

April 5, 2022

Earlier in the day, the team waived Ariza, creating an open roster spot that the Lakers intend to fill before the season ends Sunday. But signing a new player and, potentially, signing him to a non-guaranteed contract for next season, the Lakers can use that player in potential trades.


It marked the end for Ariza’s second stint with the Lakers, his preseason ankle surgery putting him behind and keeping him from becoming the critical piece the Lakers had hoped he’d be.

“The first half of the year he was either out or clearly trying to recover from that,” Vogel said of Ariza’s surgery. “And as the season got towards the end, he felt like it was bothering him very minimally. But it did derail most of his season and his impact on our team this year.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel shouts to officials during the first half Friday.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)
Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook gestures to officials during the first half Friday.
Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook gestures to officials during the first half Friday against the Golden State Warriors.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Ariza, 36, played in 24 games this season with 11 starts, averaging four points on 33.3% shooting.

With an abbreviated roster, the Lakers started Austin Reaves, Stanley Johnson, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk and Horton-Tucker, leading by nine before the Warriors pulled ahead in the second half. It was a strong performance despite their elimination from the postseason the game before.


But it was Horton-Tucker’s game that was the most encouraging.

Before the game, Golden State coach Steve Kerr — who had suffered over a year-plus of losing before the Warriors returned to the playoffs — said the key to navigating those final games is finding something about which to be excited. At least Horton-Tucker delivered on that.

“The most important thing was finding something late in the year, building some momentum and carrying that over to a great start this year,” Kerr said before the game. “I just think when you’re in a tough spot and you have injuries or whatever adversity knocks you back, you’ve got to be able to latch onto some hope. And where you find that hope is different in every set of circumstances.”