LeBron James, Lakers give ‘game ball’ to Lonnie Walker IV for clutch Game 4 vs. Warriors

The headliner of Game 4 for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Golden State Warriors— ahem, Game IV — was not LeBron James nor Anthony Davis, though both made huge plays. Instead, the game ball went to Lonnie Walker IV. who had been out of the rotation for months, yet embodies the selfless, “Stay Ready” culture established by Darvin Ham.

“I think it’s self-explanatory how special he was in the fourth quarter,” said LeBron, who posted 27/9/6 in 43 minutes as the Lakers nabbed a 3-1 series lead over the defending champs. “I think he had 15 of our 27 points. Just more importantly, in my 20-year career, I’ve seen a lot of young guys kinda lose confidence in themself … if they been in the rotation or started or had big minutes on the team and then they taken out of the lineup … and they just completely lose themself. And for him to be a young guy in this league, and just consistently every single day showed up, been a professional, great energy, high character, and showed why he was able to throw everything to the side and be him tonight.

“Game ball definitely goes to him tonight.”

“We don’t win that game without Lonnie Walker tonight. That’s for sure.” pic.twitter.com/uMTBrxzG1z

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 9, 2023

Walker — to whom the Lakers controversially gave their valuable mid-level exception, back when Rob Pelinka was unpopular — was the Lakers’ most dependable scorer after LeBron, AD and Russell Westbrook for the first few months of the season, which were approximately 25 years ago. After reinforcements came at the trade deadline, he was relegated out of the rotation.

And yet, before Game 3, as Los Angeles looked for a boost from the 2-guard spot — amid struggles from Austin Reaves, Troy Brown Jr., and Malik Beasley — Ham tapped Walker to provide a spark. The 24-year-old responded with 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting in 24 minutes in a Lakers rout. (He was solid in Game 2 garbage time, as well.)

Regardless of the scoreboard, Walker appreciated the opportunity.

“Like a dream,” he told The Athletic about Game 3. “I could not go to sleep. My girl was pretty pissed off at me. But I was really happy, man. I’ve been thinking about this for so dang long. And for it to pan out the way it did, and for us to win, I can’t thank no one but the man upstairs for keeping me ready and keeping me prepared.”

Ham said Walker had been “kicking butt” with the Lakers’ Stay Ready group — post-practice scrimmages comprised of non-rotation guys. “He was a starter for us at one point. So my confidence in him never wavered.”

In a tightly contested Game 4, Ham was eager to lean on Walker. He got run in the first half but didn’t attempt a shot. He re-entered with 3:48 left in the third quarter and never subbed back out. He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers held on for a 104-101 win. (Exactly 26 years earlier, Kobe Bryant became the first Lakers player to come off the bench and score at least 15 points in the fourth quarter of a playoff game.) All five of Lonnie’s buckets either tied the game or put the Lakers ahead.

“He’s a beautiful kid,” said Ham. “He fell out of the rotation through no fault of his own … But he remained a trooper, remained professional, high-spirited, and positive, and really kept working on his game. Kudos to him.”

Walker’s dependable scoring enabled LeBron and AD, who each played 43 minutes, to expend whatever was left in their tank on the defensive end. The Lakers won the final period, 27-17.

“He shined,” said AD (23 points, 15 rebounds). “He always stayed mentally prepared.”

LONNIE. pic.twitter.com/AB2zS2lvMs

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 9, 2023

So often, NBA playoff games come down to shotmaking in the half court against dialed-in defenses. Who can just go get a bucket? Typically, that job comes down to (Stephen A. Smith voice) the LeBrons, Stephs, Jimmy Butlers, Dames of the world.

Lonnie happens to possess that ability.

“It’s the Lonnie Walker game!” pic.twitter.com/F76bfRMoCg

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 9, 2023

His defense — which was all he talked about for months after signing with Los Angeles but had dipped by December —  has held up against the Dubs, too.

“The greatest feeling you can ever imagine,” Walker said about his Game 4 contributions. “As a kid, this is something I’ve been dreaming of doing; not just being a part of the playoffs but impacting the playoffs. I’m truly proud of myself. It really shows my capabilities and my mental fortitude.

“It means a lot. I really can’t put into words, just truly ecstatic to be in this situation … It’s a great feeling honestly. I’m really going to cherish this day.”

Lonnie Walker IV’s postgame presser is worth watching. He stayed ready, never lost belief, kept things in perspective, and waited for his moment. You could tell it genuinely meant a lot to him. Cool stuff!pic.twitter.com/VNtgUQaCw1 https://t.co/KY7klYEVQJ

— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) May 9, 2023

Lonnie deserves all the flowers for his mindset and scoring, first and foremost. But, his readiness was emblematic of the culture Ham has established since being hired 11 months back. The Lakers always play hard; their effort, individual and collective, has never been an issue, especially post-trade deadline. They’re deep, selfless, and resilient. Once they genuinely began to realize their potential in early March, minutes, egos, and politics ceased. It has been all ball, all business.

LONNIE STAYS READY pic.twitter.com/DueKq0ad04

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 9, 2023

So far in these playoffs, we’ve seen Walker, Reaves, Rui Hachimura, and D’Angelo Russell each win ballgames while LeBron and AD do their thing. The postgame locker room has been joyous and rowdy for months.

Goodnight, Lakers fam. pic.twitter.com/GQqohbNJA3

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 9, 2023

So, yes: The 2022-23 Los Angeles Lakers, starring LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are a genuinely feel-good underdog story, and legit championship contenders. Can’t write that script.

The post LeBron James, Lakers give ‘game ball’ to Lonnie Walker IV for clutch Game 4 vs. Warriors appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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