LOS ANGELES — Starting day out of the playoff picture with just 11 games remaining in the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers received a jolt from a player whose total focus matched what the team’s situation required.
austin reaves scored a career-high 35 points, including the Lakers’ last 10, to beat the Orlando Magic 111-105 and tie for No. 9 in the Western Conference and return to postseason seeding.
“Every time I go out on the court, I play with a sense of urgency and leave it all on the court, because that’s how I think basketball should be played,” said Reaves, who was celebrated with MVP chants from the crowd. Crypto.com Arena. .
It’s been quite the rise for the second-year wing who went undrafted out of Oklahoma in 2021 and originally signed with LA on a two-way deal.
“For you to recognize what I do, I’m obviously not an MVP-caliber player, those guys are really good, but for them to do that for me is special, it means a lot to me,” Reaves said.
And it meant a lot to the Lakers on a night when antonio davis (15 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 5 turnovers) was not at his best to avoid what would have been a second devastating loss in the last week after the Lakers already lost a game to the Houston Rockets.
“He took us tonight with his game,” Davis said. “We know what we have in Austin. He’s very confident and he played that way tonight.”
Lebron Jameswho missed his 11th straight game with a right foot injury, weighed in on Reaves on social media, writing in part: “You’re too HARD!!”
“You’re talking about possibly one of the greatest players of all time,” Reaves said. “I mean, I don’t know what to say. For him to accept me the way he accepted me from Day 1, obviously I felt like there was really good chemistry, IQ-wise, from Day 1. But it’s not just him. , everyone else.”
Reaves personally outscored the Magic 10-5 in the final minute and 33 seconds, going 8-for-10 from the free throw line and adding an 11-foot jumper that gave LA a 105-103 lead with 57.8 seconds remaining. . — an advantage the Lakers never relinquished.
dennis schroeder and Malik Beasley drenched Reaves with water on the court after the final buzzer to christen the big game, as Reaves led to a 61-26 bench lead for LA
Reaves became the seventh player in Lakers history to score 35 or more points off the bench and the first since. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on March 19, 2019.
He shot 9 of 14 from the field and 16 of 18 from the free throw line, joining Lou Williams as the only other Laker to make 16 free throws off the bench for the franchise.
The Lakers (35-37) have 10 games left, with the Phoenix Suns next Wednesday.
“It’s special,” Reaves said of his night. “I mean, I grew up a Lakers fan. To do it especially for this organization is surreal. Sometimes I have to stop and really think about what I’m doing… All that makes me happy is winning.”