The superstar-less Los Angeles Lakers dominated the undermanned Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, 110-101. LA garnered multiple contributions from their role players, including Talen Horton-Tucker who recorded 17 points, four rebounds and six assists. Not a bad all-around performance for the sophomore, who is practically in his rookie year since he didn’t get much playing time last season.
Seven @Lakers players score double figures in the victory vs. Toronto!
Talen Horton-Tucker: 17 PTS, 6 AST
Markieff Morris: 15 PTS, 9 REB
Marc Gasol: 13 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST
Dennis Schroder: 12 PTS, 9 AST pic.twitter.com/dBUbM5eGCI
— NBA (@NBA) April 7, 2021
It was just two weeks ago when THT was involved in trade talks for the greatest Toronto Raptor of all-time in Kyle Lowry. The vet is on the verge of becoming a free agent, which is why the Raptors wanted to get a deal done before he hits free agency—but to no avail. The Lakers did not want to give up their young talent in THT for Lowry and received criticism from fans and even analysts for not doing so.
Fast forward two weeks after, THT showed why the Lakers continue to bet on him. While the 35-year-old Lowry was sidelined on the bench due to injury, Horton-Tucker led the Lakers in scoring. Sure, the game was somewhat out of reach since the start of the second quarter, but THT gave the Purple and Gold the spark when they needed it most throughout the game: diving for the loose ball, running coast to coast and flat out defending his man—all of these little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
What THT did in the game isn’t necessarily a knock on Lowry. The Raptors star, as great as he is, just wasn’t worth the gamble of losing three key players in THT, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Dennis Schroder—who all had relatively good games on Tuesday. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Another notable part about THT’s game on Tuesday was his increased attempt from deep. During the start of the season, the sophomore would hesitate on that end and opt to drive in and go for his signature reverse layup. This game was different. The Lakers shot 45 percent from the 3-point line on Tuesday—a welcome sight for a team that has been struggling on that end. THT shot 3-of-4 from deep and was a clear offensive threat to the Raptors.
If you watch his game closely, his offensive arsenal is clearly still developing but is already giving the opposing defense a hard time. Scouting reports will say that THT’s signature move is to drive in and get a layup, but what if he’s using that to make plays as well? Then that’s extra difficult to stop. What’s even going to help THT’s playmaking skills improvement is if his teammates are making their threes. When they do, game over.
The Lakers are at their best when they’re clamping down their opponents on the defensive end while at the same time making their 3-point shots. But they’re also at their worst when their superstars are not on the rotation—something they hope will be fixed in a couple of weeks. THT has for sure made a case to make the playoff rotation for the defending champions this season, and with Andre Drummond’s presence in the interior, Anthony Davis and LeBron James back, the second-year man should flourish even more.
It makes clear sense as to why the defending champions remain high on THT. They bet on not giving up a potential rising star for a 35-year-old who is currently sidelined to injury. It’s also important to note that the Lakers could have a slim chance of acquiring Lowry in free agency next season. After all, James and Davis were dapping him up post-game. Who knows, they could be recruiting him to Los Angeles!
For now, LA remains confident in THT, and rightfully so.