LOS ANGELES — Just as LeBron James felt he entered Wednesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans — bedridden with a virus that even caused him to miss the team’s Halloween party — surely he would have felt sicker if the Los Angeles Lakers blasted 16 points and fell to 1- 6.
Turns out Matt Ryan was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Ryan hit a 3-corner pointer from a precise cross pass from Austin Reeves at the end of the regulation, and Los Angeles held out in overtime 120-117 to win their second game in a row.
“Today was the first day I got out of bed since Sunday night,” said James, who finished the game with 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. “There’s just something going on about it, and it hits me really well. It hurts me to miss the Halloween party with all my buddies on Monday.”
While James missed the celebrations, the Lakers dressed up for the successful team in the previous two games after starting the 0-5 season.
Clouds have separated slightly for a team that already has more than its fair share of injuries and scrutiny of the roster to start the season.
“My confidence is that when it comes to shooting, he is unwavering,” said Ryan, who was 2 for 8 on 3 the day before hitting the big ball. “I mean, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that.”
Coach Darvin Hamm said he called for the play to be moved to Ryan, who was a DoorDash delivery driver before he played in one game for the Boston Celtics last season. He came to the Lakers as an invitee to a training camp and secured a contract in part thanks to his outside shooting performance in pre-season.
“I kind of felt it in my gut [the Pelicans] “I know Matt is a shooting threat, but I’m going to use it as a kind of decoy for someone else,” Hamm said. But the play was definitely dedicated to him. Austin threw a pass from hell.”
The Lakers would not have been in this position had it not been for a five consecutive loss of shots in the last minute and a half of the fourth quarter preceding Ryan’s shot. Albeit not for a bit of luck either. Rookie Pelican Dyson Daniels missed two free throws with 1.6 seconds to go which could have cooled the match. Had he made one out of two, Ryan’s bullet would have been moot.
“We didn’t deserve to win that game, so thanks to the Lakers, they did what they needed to do,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said.
Time will tell if a streak of mini victories is a sign of bigger things to come for the Lakers or a brief respite in a season full of nightly Western Conference fights. To this point, Los Angeles’ next opponent on Friday, the Utah Jazz, is 6-3 despite exchanging their All-Stars in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert during the holiday period.
There won’t be many easy nights, and many outcomes could lead to something as simple as Daniels’ free throw or Ryan’s 3 throw.
“Just keep that feeling,” said Anthony Davis (20 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks). “I just kept fighting, trying to stay in this moment of remembering the feeling of winning. We want to keep doing that.
“I just started clicking, I started finding things. Find the courses, find the positions we’ve been really good at. And guys stay ready, come in and play really well. We’re starting to put everything together.”
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