Dennis Schroder lifts exhausted Los Angeles Lakers to unlikely win

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James is already three starters short, with Anthony Davis and Lonnie Walker entering the game and seeing a fourth player, Troy Brown Jr., exit early due to a left stump, the Los Angeles Lakers coach, Darvin Ham, felt the need to protect Dennis Schroder from himself after the point guard rolled his right ankle midway through the fourth quarter on Wednesday.

“He walked into the group and I was like, ‘Man, if I see you limping, I’ll take you out,'” Ham said, describing the Lakers timeout with 5:41 remaining in the fourth quarter while following the Miami Heat by three runs. “He said, ‘No. Let me in the game. It’ll be fine, Coach. I’m doing well.

“I said, ‘Well, be good.’ And then he said, ‘I’m not going to be good, I’m going to be awesome.’ Those are his exact words to me.”

Schroder stayed in the game, working through the pain caused by stepping on Bam Adebayo’s foot, and stepped up to the free throw line to immediately drain two foul shots, cutting the Lakers deficit to a point. One possession later, he hit a 3 from the corner to put LA ahead by two.

The Lakers never trailed again, winning 112-109. Schroder led the team with a season-high 32 points along with four rebounds and four steals.

“I just try to be there for my teammates,” Schroder said. “I felt pretty good afterwards. [turning the ankle]. Of course, it was painful and it hurt. But I know my limits.”

Ham, who was an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks when Schroder entered the league as a rookie in 2013, thanked the veteran for dumping him.

“A lot of times when your adrenaline is going up like that, you don’t feel it,” Ham said. “But I’m sure later tonight or tomorrow morning he’s going to feel that way. Kid is just a fireball of a competitor. And he showed that tonight.”

The win took LA to 4-1 in their last five games and 5-5 overall since Davis was pulled out of the lineup with a broken bone spur and a stress reaction in his right foot.

Schroder was one of many Lakers to perform well, along with Thomas Bryant (21 of 9 points on 11 shooting, 9 rebounds), Russell Westbrook (21 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 steals), Austin Reaves ( 11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) and Wenyen Gabriel (10 points on 4-for-6 shooting) also contributed.

“I just think different guys are settling into their roles, getting more comfortable with more reps, more minutes,” Ham said. “When we get our big dogs back, whether it’s Bron, AD, the two back – Lonnie too – it makes us even stronger, much deeper, because now the guys have confidence. They have the ultimate confidence because ‘they got the reps.’

LA is now one game behind the Utah Jazz for the 10th seed in the Western Conference, which could put the Lakers back in the playoffs thanks to the last play-off spot.

While it’s not the mark in basketball that equates to the 17 championships the franchise is known for, the Davis-free streak showed the Lakers had a relatively successful offseason when it comes to signing decisions, Schroder, Bryant and Brown all finding consistent success despite only being tied to minimum contracts.

Schroder, who is back with the Lakers for his second stint with the team, said Ham’s presence weighed heavily in his choice to return.

“We’ve been talking for, I don’t know, three to four years, [saying that] when he becomes head coach, I want to be his PG,” Schroder said. “He trusts me. I remember summer league my sophomore year; he was the head coach there, and he just let me be me.

“And right now he keeps telling me to be aggressive even when Bron and AD are around. [and] Russ: ‘Be aggressive and do your s—.’ That’s what he always says. So, I will continue to be aggressive, continue to find my way. And I have to shout to him that whatever he said before I came here, he respected it. So I love him.”

Leave a Comment