LOS ANGELES—After losing to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers were in need of a win to make the playoffs in the congested Western Conference. Austin Reaves scored career high 35 points for the Lakers in a 111-105 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday at Crypto.com Arena.
The Lakers snapped a two-game losing streak, the crowd chanted “MVP” as Reaves took over down the stretch, with both teams tied at 101-101 in the final minutes of the game.
The young, gritty Laker made key shots to save the Purple and Gold, nailing challenging jump shots en route to a career high.
Reaves was spectacular in leading the Lakers to victory with 13 points in the fourth quarter, including the team’s last 10 points during the final 1:33 minutes of gameplay. D’Angelo Russell added 18 points, while Anthony Davis had another double double with 15 points and 14 resounds.
The undrafted second-year pro has earned a vital role his star-studded team, and Reaves factored in almost every big play, repeatedly earned trips to the line in the fourth quarter.
Reaves shot a career-high 18 free throws, while the Magic shot 17.
The Lakers entered this game off back-to-back losses to Houston and Dallas, gravely affecting their tenuous position in the playoff race. This win put Los Angeles (35-37) back in ninth in the Western Conference, tied with Minnesota.
“I thought it was (Reaves) being his normal self,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham. “What he’s been all year. Coming up in clutch moments for us, trying to make plays downhill, putting the defense in uncomfortable situations with his ability to attack the paint and draw fouls. He was great. He ended up with 35, and we needed all of them.”
Despite the record, the Magic are a better team than their record indicates with their 29 victories. This is an up and coming NBA franchise that upset the LA Clippers on Saturday, 113-108.
Led by soon to be NBA Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero, who scored 21 points for Orlando, he displayed lightning speed to get to the basket and his high arching floaters and teardrops found the net.
Cole Anthony hit a tying 3-pointer with 2:37 left for the Magic, who trailed throughout the second half. Banchero fouled Reaves on a 3-point attempt a minute later, and Reaves hit two free throws before Wagner tied it again.
Reaves responded by hitting a mid-range jumper with 57 seconds left and grabbed the long rebound of Wagner’s missed 3 before making two more free throws. Banchero missed a layup and got the technical foul that helped the Lakers to seal it.
The Lakers improved to 6-5 during the latest injury absence for LeBron James who has been out for three weeks with a sore right foot. Ham reiterated before the game that Los Angeles expects James to return before the regular season ends in three weeks.
Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns will take on the Lakers at Crypto.com Arena on March 22.