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We finally got another Lonnie Walker IV Game

But the title of THE Lonnie Walker Game still belongs to the Spurs.

2023 NBA Playoffs- Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Former Spur Lonnie Walker IV had a remarkable game in the Lakers’ exciting 104-101 win over the Warriors Monday night, giving his team a 3-1 series lead. Actually, strike that. Walker had a remarkable quarter. He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, which also happens to be the same number he had for the game. His three-pointer to open the fourth cut the Warriors’ lead from seven to four, and it also started a massive switch in momentum. Every other basket he made either tied the score or put the Lakers ahead. LeBron James pointed out the obvious after the game: the Lakers would not have won the game without Lonnie Walker IV and his remarkable fourth quarter.

But Spurs fans surely disagree with the media calling Monday night’s contest “The Lonnie Walker Game”. On December 3, 2019, then second-year Walker had the actual “Lonnie Walker Game”. That night, the Spurs took on the powerful 13-6 Rockets, led by James Harden and Russell Westbrook when both were at the top of their games. The Spurs limped into that game with a 7-14 record. That night, Walker scored 28 points on 10-18 shooting, 4-7 from three in 35 minutes, AND covered James Harden for much of the game. Young Lonnie was +29 for the game in which his team won by 2 points, 135-133 in double overtime. Thanks largely to Walker’s unexpected contributions, the Spurs beat the Rockets in double overtime 135-133.

I wrote about that game in one of my Fun with Box Scores editions. Among other oddities from that box score were the following:

  1. Despite shooting 4 for 20 from three, James Harden scored 50 points, including making all 24 free throws. A team has never lost a game in which one of their players went 24-24 from the line — because this was the first time in history anyone has made that many free throws without missing. The Rockets lost despite taking more shots from the field, making twelve more free throws (at 94%), getting six more offensive rebounds, and committing four less turnovers.
  2. Also falling into the “Has this ever happened before?” category: Rockets’ center Clint Capela shot 100% from the field (9-9) for 22 points, to go with his 21 rebounds, 8 of them offensive. So the Rockets starting center got over 20 points and 20 rebounds and made all of his shots. And his team lost.

I also wrote:

“Back to Walker, who really needs an appropriate nick-name — LW4? Lonnie Skywalker? Including the Rockets game, he is now averaging less than 8 minutes and 5 points per game. Against the Rockets, he played 35 minutes (and never looked tired or fazed) and scored 28 points. I predict that he will play more than 8 minutes per game going forward.”

I was partially correct. In the Spurs next game, Walker played twelve minutes and scored two points.

The summary of that game said this:

Walker, a second-year guard who has been patiently waiting on the bench most of his career, took over in his first extended playing time to fuel the comeback.

“It was confidence,” Walker said. “My teammates kept me going, and once I started feeling it, I’m just going to let it go and play my game. I know what I can and cannot do. I’m just happy that we played team ball and we got this win.”

Walker’s comments after the Lakers’ win sounded a lot like what he said after the actual Lonnie Walker game four-and-a-half years ago. Perhaps Lonnie was coached on dealing with the media by Crash Davis of Bull Durham fame..

Come to think of it, Crash Davis would be a great nickname for the Lakers’ Anthony Davis.

Other things I haven’t seen mentioned about the Lakers’ “Lonnie Walker Game”:

  1. Lakers shot an outstanding 80% from the free throw line for the season. If they did that Monday night (16-20) instead of what they did (20-20), they would have lost.
  2. The Warriors willingly switched Steph Curry onto whoever his man screened for. That did not go well. The Lakers scored repeatedly on Curry and forced him to expend a ton of energy defending either LeBron or Skywalker. I think Curry’s final ill-fated decision to let it fly from 30 feet over Crash Davis in the last minute happened because Curry was just too tired to do anything else.
  3. Why did Curry keep switching onto LeBron? Andrew Wiggins should simply go under the ball screen and let LeBron heave up another three, or Curry should show and recover back to his man — just as he did against the Sacramento Kings. Sometimes he switched even without a screen, just an exchange. I assume the Warriors make this adjustment for Game Five. I just fear it will be too late.
  4. With 1:41 left in the game, 10 seconds on the shot clock, and the Warriors up 99-98, Klay Thompson chucked up a heavily contested 28-footer from the left wing. It was one of the most ill-advised shots I have ever seen in that situation. I would like to think it was a “heat check” for Klay, but he had made only three shots the entire game. Then again, that was three more shots than the Warriors back-up “shooting guard” Jordan Poole made in the game.
  5. If a team goes down 3–1 in a series, they really want to do it when they have Game Five and Game Seven (if necessary) back at home. But teams also don’t want to lose games like Monday night, where they had a chance to win on the road despite not shooting well, only to be undone by our old friend Lonnie Walker.
  6. But let’s end with some good news. Another former Spurs and University of Colorado guard Derrick White was just named to the NBA All-Defense Second Team. Let the Buffalo roam!