Lakers put away Magic behind Austin Reaves' career-high 35

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Monday, March 20, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- Starting the day out of the playoff picture with only 11 games remaining in the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers got a jolt from a player whose all-out approach matched what the team's situation required.

Austin Reaves scored a career-high 35 points -- including the Lakers' last 10 -- to beat the Orlando Magic111-105and jump into a tie for No. 9 in the Western Conference and back in postseason positioning.

"Every time I take the court, play with a sense of urgency and leave it all out on the floor, because that's how I feel basketball should be played," said Reaves, who was celebrated with MVP chants from the Arena crowd.

It's been quite the ascent for the second-year wing who was undrafted out of Oklahoma in 2021 and originally signed with L.A. on a two-way contract.

"For them to recognize what I do -- obviously not an MVP-caliber player, those guys are really good -- but for them to do that for me is special, it means a lot to me," Reaves said.

And it meant a lot for the Lakers on a night when Anthony Davis (15 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 5 turnovers) was not at his best in order to avoid what would have been a second devastating loss in the past week after the Lakers already dropped a game against the cellar-dwelling Houston Rockets.

"He carried us tonight with his play," Davis said. "We know what we have in Austin. He's very confident and he played that way tonight."

LeBron James, who missed his 11th straight game with a right foot injury, chimed in on Reaves on social media, writing in part, "You toooooo TOUGH!!"

"You're talking about arguably one of the greatest players ever," Reaves said. "I mean I don't know what to say. For him to accept me the way he accepted me from Day 1, obviously I felt there was a really good chemistry, IQ-wise, from Day 1. But not just him, everybody else."

Reaves personally outscored the Magic 10-5 in the final one minute and 33 seconds, going 8-for-10 from the foul line and adding a pull-up jumper from 11 feet that gave L.A. a 105-103 edge with 57.8 seconds remaining -- a lead the Lakers never relinquished.

Dennis Schroder and Malik Beasley drenched Reaves with water on the court after the final buzzer to baptize the big game, as Reaves led a 61-26 bench advantage for L.A.

Reaves became the seventh player in Lakers history to score 35 points or more off the bench and the first do to it since Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on March 19, 2019.

He shot 9 for 14 from the field and 16 for 18 from the foul line, joining Lou Williams as the only other Laker to hit 16 free throws off the bench for the franchise.

The Lakers (35-37) have 10 games remaining, with the Phoenix Suns next on Wednesday.

"It's special," Reaves said of his night. "I mean, I grew up a Lakers fan. To do it for this organization especially is surreal. Sometimes I got to stop and really think about what I am doing. ... All I'm really happy about is the win."

Related Video