LOS ANGELES — LeBron James, who felt sick during Wednesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans — was bedridden with a virus that caused him to miss his Halloween team — and the Los Angeles Lakers bombshell would have certainly felt sick. He fell to 1-6 with a 16-point lead.
Turns out Matt Ryan was just what the doctor ordered.
Ryan hit a 3-pointer from Austin Reeves at the end of regulation from the pin point cross court and LA won its second game in a row with a 120-117 overtime victory.
“Today was the first day I got out of bed since Sunday night,” said James, who finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. “There’s something about it, and it really hits me. It hurts my soul not to miss the Halloween party with all my boys on Monday.”
With James missing the festivities, the Lakers have gone two games back after an 0-5 start to the season.
And the clouds parted a little for a team that had more than a fair amount of injury and roster scrutiny to start the season.
“That’s my belief, he’s unwavering when it comes to shooting,” said Ryan, who was 2-for-8 from 3 a day before hitting the big one. “If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be here.”
Coach Darwin Hamm made the call to Ryan, who was a door-dash delivery driver, before playing in one game for the Boston Celtics last season. He was invited to the Lakers for training camp and earned a guaranteed contract based in part on his outside shooting performance in the preseason.
“I felt it in my gut. [the Pelicans] “Knowing Matt is a threat to shoot him, but I’m going to use him as a decoy for someone else,” Hamm said. But the game was definitely meant for him. Austin threw a hell of a pass.”
The Lakers wouldn’t be in that position if it weren’t for five straight shots missed in the final minute and a half of Ryan’s layup midway through the fourth quarter. And if it wasn’t for a little luck, well. Pelicans starter Dyson Daniels missed two free throws with 1.6 seconds left. If he had done either of those things, Ryan would have been shot.
“We shouldn’t have won that game, so credit to the Lakers, they did what they had to do,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said.
Time will tell if the mini-winning streak is a sign of big things to come for the Lakers, or if it’s just a brief respite filled with late-night battles in the Western Conference. Until then, LA’s next opponent on Friday, the Utah Jazz, are 6-3 despite trading away both stars in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert during the offseason.
There won’t be many easy nights, and many results can come down to something as small as a Daniel free throw or a Ryan 3.
“Just keep that feeling,” said Anthony Davis (20 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks) on the key to the Lakers’ current build. “We kept fighting, trying to stay in the moment, remembering what it feels like to win. We want to keep doing that.
“It’s starting to click, it’s starting to find things. Find the rotations, find the situations where we’ve been really good. And guys are coming in ready and playing well. We’re starting to put everything together.”