It was a potential NBA finals preview, albeit with superstars on either side with injuries. But nevertheless, Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder called L.A.'s 126-101 beatdown of this Brooklyn Nets on Saturday"the greatest win of the year."
"Like I said all along, all year, once we play scrappy on the defensive end, we always have a chance," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said after L.A. held Brooklyn into 43.5% shooting and its lowest point total in eight matches. "I am super proud of our group."
Maybe not that Brooklyn was at full strength, either, with James Harden (right hamstring) outside and Kevin Durant on a minutes limitation in only his second game back from a protracted hamstring injury of his own. In addition to this, Kyrie Irving got into it with Schroder in the third quarter, and 2 were ejected.
However, the Lakers had contributions across the board, using a season-high eight gamers reaching double sided scoring and the team linking a season best with 19 made 3-pointers. In addition, Talen Horton-Tucker needed a career-high 11 assists, Alfonzo McKinnie had a season-high nine rebounds, Markieff Morris had a season-high three steals and Ben McLemore made five 3s in just his second game with the team.
"I heard a lot from the match, that we have a good deal of guys in this locker room which are very tough," said Andre Drummond, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds in his strongest game since joining L.A. in the buyout market a month. "Despite who is on the other side of the court, they are likely to come out and play. However many minutes guys play, they are likely to perform to the best of their ability. We had a good deal of fun tonight playing and getting this win."
Drummond sure seemed like he had been enjoying himself when he first drove and scored on LaMarcus Aldridge midway through the next quarter. Drummond drew a foul as he bullied his way into the hoop and then dropped his hands below his knees in party, gesturing that Aldridge was too little to guard him.
"That is my signature I do when I score on people and get an and-1, therefore nothing involving LaMarcus blatantly. It is just what I do. Regardless of who is out there, it's happening."
It was apparently all happening for L.A. after the run-in between Irving and Schroder, going on a protracted 57-33 run from that point until there were only a few minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter.
Irving and Schroder lasted to jaw at each other after teammates intervened to step between them when Irving was called for a second technical foul by referee Tyler Ford, leading to an automatic ejection. Schroder was issued another technical foul of his own shortly thereafter by referee Jason Goldenberg.
"I think it was unnecessary," Schroder said after the game. "It's just unfortunate that I abandon my team out there by themselves. And I mean I did not actually, I don't even know what I did. But I got kicked out, and I apologized for this to my teammates."
Zarba clarified the officials' decisions to a pool reporter subsequently.
"After being assessed the first technical fouls, the two players were warned against to move on," he said. "So when Irving could not stop yelling at Schroder, he was then assessed his second technical foul and ejected. And after Irving's ejection, if you look at the movie, then Schroder kind of waves goodbye to him at a taunting way, and that is why he had been issued a second technical foul and ejected."
Irving didn't talk to reporters after the loss, leaving it to his teammates to describe what happened.
"We were in the game, but I'm not going to blame it on the ejection for why the momentum switched," said Durant, who scored 22 points in 24 minutes, but also had eight turnovers. "They got it moving, so we have to have got it moving."
The win brought the Lakers' record to 2-1 on their present five-game East Coast road trip.
"When you find guys out and you see a great competitor like the Nets, you can be a tiny bit helpless and not positive if you're going to have a chance to acquire it. But you want a go-after-these-guys mindset," Vogel said. "And we knew coming in that if we could prevail shorthanded against this opponent that it would feel great and it would be among the best wins of the year.
"So, we are happy about that."