Los Angeles Times
Stephenson the showman
Guard’s hustle and determination were key to Lakers’ second consecutive win.
His back-to-back threepointers provided the Lakers with a big momentum shift during a tense fourth quarter against Denver on Thursday and it was time to see how Lance Stephenson would celebrate the moment.
He hopped and then skipped across the court at Staples Center, finishing his performance with an air guitar routine after the Nuggets called a timeout, drawing cheers from the fans.
Stephenson had been a force for the Lakers during their stirring win over Denver and his showmanship was on full display.
“I think I even saw an air guitar for the first time this season, which is exciting to our coaches,” Lakers coach Luke Walton, smiling, said after the game.
Stephenson’s act included 12 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Of course, he had to be asked how long it took him to perfect the air guitar.
“Aw, I’ve been having that,” Stephenson said, smiling and mentioning his days with the Indiana Pacers. “I’ve been having it. I did that last year and now I’m sticking with it. I’m like, ‘Nobody ever did this.’ I just came up with that. That’s my little move. Don’t tell nobody.”
Stephenson played all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter, with his hustle, defense and determination a key to the Lakers winning their second consecutive game.
His thread-the-needle pass between defenders late in the fourth quarter to LeBron James for a twohanded dunk gave the Lakers a two-point lead they never relinquished.
The two chest-bumped after the Nuggets called a timeout.
“When Lance steps on the floor, he’s a spark for us,” James said after the game. “He doesn’t have to score to make an impact. But he’s done it the last two nights and it’s worked wonders for our team, that’s for sure.”
In the win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, Stephenson nearly produced a triple-double: 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
“Just being in attack mode,” Stephenson said. “Trying to create for my teammates or create for myself. Just taking what the defense gave me. Just finding my teammates.”
Starting job up for grabs?
Lonzo Ball filled the void at point guard during the suspension of Rajon Rondo, and the Lakers haven’t missed a beat in the three games he has started.
Rondo, who drew the suspension for his fight with the Rockets’ Chris Paul, will be back for the game at San Antonio on Saturday night and Walton will have to decide who starts against the Spurs. Ball’s impressive play won’t make the decision easy.
In Rondo’s absence, Ball averaged 12.6 points while shooting 53.5% from the field and 40% from three-point range.
He averaged 6.3 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 2.6 steals, including five against the Nuggets.
Walton said he planned to watch video of the Denver game and will speak to his assistant coaches before making a decision.
The Lakers have placed rookie Moritz Wagner on the South Bay Lakers for a rehabilitation assignment as he recovers from a bruised left knee.
AT SAN ANTONIO When: 5:30 PDT. On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330. Update: The Lakers lost a close game in overtime to the Spurs at Staples Center on Monday night. Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan leads the team in scoring (26.5), assists (7.8) and minutes (37.8).