In star-studded matchup, it was Lonnie Walker IV who led the way late for Lakers

In star-studded matchup, it was Lonnie Walker IV who led the way late for Lakers

Lonnie Walker IV had found himself going from the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting five to the bench, as he missed 14 games earlier this season due to knee tendinitis, and L.A. overhauled its roster during the trade deadline. Having lost his spot in the rotation in February, he made a post on his Instagram account that read like he was giving himself a TED Talk.

On Monday night, with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Stephen Curry in uniform, Walker was the most productive player late in the game. Every one of his 15 points on 66.7 percent shooting was crucial in leading the Lakers to a 104-101 victory to put them up 3-1 in their second-round series against the Golden State Warriors.

Walker started every game he was healthy for the Lakers from opening night until Dec. 28. That includes the Lakers’ 2-10 start, and also them immediately following up with a 10-2 run to save their season. James missed the first five games of that turnaround. While he was out the Lakers went 3-2 and Walker averaged 18.8 points per game on 51.4/44/87.5 shooting splits. For Walker’s first half of the season, he averaged 14.7 points per game on 45.5/38.7/87.5 splits.

Once Walker was healthy enough to play again, the Lakers were fighting for their postseason lives and had just traded for Rui Hachimura. They weren’t done as they would also add Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, and Mo Bamba before the trade deadline.

As Darvin Ham tinkered with the rotation, Walker fell out of it. He has not started a single game post-injury. Walker even got leapfrogged in the rotation by one of the reserves who remained on the roster through the deadline — Troy Brown Jr.

Darvin Ham went with Troy Brown Jr. over Walker

I never understood why Ham decided to go with Brown over Walker for the second half of the season and throughout most of the playoffs. When the Lakers signed Walker to a one-year deal in the offseason he was an ideal fit, and had proven to be one of the team’s few dependable two-way players early in the season. My eyes, and Walker’s stats, must have all been working in concert to deceive me.

Walker played 15 total minutes in the Lakers’ six-game series victory against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. He caught his third DNP-CD of the playoffs in Game 1 of the second round against the Warriors. There was a lot of garbage time in the Lakers’ Game 2 loss to the Warriors, but Walker played well, shooting 50 percent from the field in 12 minutes.

He impressed Ham enough to jump up to the Lakers’ sixth man in the rotation during the Lakers’ Game 3, 127-97 trouncing of the Warriors. Walker scored 12 points on 66.7 percent shooting.

Of those 15 points that Walker scored in Game 4, every single one of them came in the fourth quarter. This was a game the Lakers could have let slip away as the Warriors fought to travel up the Golden State Freeway — by charter jet, of course — tied 2-2 in the series. Davis did not duplicate his first-half impact in the second, and some costly turnovers put the Lakers in a spot to lose that game.

Walker opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer. Also, for nearly four minutes of action in the final period, his three field goals were the Lakers’ only points during that span. When Curry was talking big trash after that 4-point play, it was Walker who buried an inefficient 22-foot 2-pointer to tie the game.

As much as I hate D-level acting performances by NBA players, Draymond Green did extend his arms when Walker tried to get around him to contest a Klay Thompson 3-pointer. It was a clear foul that may not have been called if Walker did spin into the hardwood like NBA players are wont to do at the moment of contact.

Also, with the game in the balance during the final 15 seconds Walker grabbed a rebound after a Curry 3-point miss. Walker then went on to convert his only two free throw attempts of the game to put the Lakers up by three points.

“Don’t be discouraged by what you see. It may be a huge obstacle in front of you but don’t forget that the greater the trial the bigger the reward.”

That was part of Walker’s IG story post when he was falling out of the rotation late in February. It is now early May, and without Walker refusing to be discouraged, the Lakers are tied 2-2 on their way back to the Bay Area.

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.