When Lakers head coach Darvin Ham told his team to be aggressive and competitive prior to their matchup against the Miami Heat, guard Dennis Schrӧder rose to the occasion to help secure their 112-109 victory.
He led the Los Angeles Lakers with 32 points, scoring 14 in the fourth quarter. He was perfect from the free throw line, going nine of nine in the phase. After getting an ankle injury, he remained on the hardwood.
“We got in the huddle and I told him “if I see you limping, I’m taking you out” he said “no, leave me in the game, I’ll be alright coach,”” Ham said about Schrӧder. “He was phenomenal, nothing short of phenomenal.”
Schrӧder reassured Ham that he would “be great” and that he can trust him and the Germany native did not let him down. He played the entire fourth quarter, scoring the last two free throws of the game, pegging the score at 112.
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“[Ham], he tried to protect me and said that he didn’t want me playing on one leg,” Schrӧder said. “But I felt pretty good.”
Ham noted how his play on Wednesday reminded him of the tenacity he showed during his rookie year with the Atlanta Hawks in 2013. Ham was an assistant coach with the franchise at the time.
“You could tell he was going to be special just because he put the work in and he was competitive and he always shined in big moments,” Ham said.
Schrӧder also took a likeness to Ham as a coach; he was one of the reasons why he returned to the Lakers. He wanted to be his point guard when Ham became a head coach.
“He trusts me. I remember Summer League, my second year, he was the head coach there and he just let me be me,” Schrӧder said. “When I heard that he got the job in L.A. I was like I need to call him and make sure he knows that I’m proud of him.”
Schröder was one of five players who scored in the double digits against the Heat.
Center Thomas Bryant scored 21 points and led the team with nine rebounds. They were without LeBron James (non-COVID illness), Anthony Davis (right foot soreness) and Lonnie Walker IV (left knee soreness).
“We all knew that everybody had to step up when you lose key guys like that in the lineup,” Bryant said. “Everybody knew we had to step up and play together, talk, communicate and be the most competitive team out there.”
Guard Russell Westbrook came close to a triple-double with 21 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists.
“The mindset for the game, just make them play at our pace, which I thought we did a good job of the entire game,” Westbrook said. “We defended very well.”
The Lakers will host the Atlanta Hawks on January 6 at 7:30P.M.