It’s no secret that the consensus on Lonzo Ball here is that he’s a bad young player. But in the Lakers 138-128 victory over the Thunder, he showed more than a few flashes of not being total ass, and might have proven to coach Luke Walton that the team’s best chance of surviving this LeBron-less period is by running the offense through Ball.
In his assigned role, the young point guard found an impressive balance between his innate desire to pass the ball every six seconds, and the important realization that he needs to score some points in order for his team to have a chance at winning. This resulted in not only some smooth passes to open teammates:
But also some incredible off-ball movement that set himself up for scores:
While also creating a culture of ball movement against a team that had been pretty sloppy on the defensive end for the entirety of the game, Ball’s offensive plan of attack kept him out of positions that would end up harming his team (i.e. the free throw line). Ball did not go to the line once despite his 17 field goal attempts, and his team didn’t suffer for it. It certainly helped that Kyle Kuzma scored 32 points and Ivica Zubac dropped 26 points and was a +35 off the bench, but Ball was quite influential in their scoring efforts throughout the game. The scorers did their thing, while Ball—acting as a floor general pro tempore—was able to do his thing.
The point guard wasn’t without a big mistake, however. Down three with 2.9 seconds remaining in regulation, Russell Westbrook drove down the court to take a game-tying shot. Ball tried to intentionally foul Westbrook, but the Laker mistimed his move and caught the Thunder point guard after he started his shooting motion, sending him to the line for three free throws. Westbrook sunk them all and sent the game into overtime.
But overtime was where Ball ended up shining the most. He continued the hustling off-ball movement that made him a legitimate scoring threat in regulation with plays like this three after winning a jump-ball:
And he also kept completing slick passes that even impressed folks known for analyzing NBA game tape:
Ball finished overtime with five points, two rebounds and an assist with 18 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the game. Westbrook, on the other hand, was 0-for-1 in OT and scored 26 points on 30 shot attempts. On some cosmic level, this game probably served as a sign for Westbrook to try and follow Ball’s example on how to be an effective point guard for your team.