Lonzo Ball shows off prowess beyond arc as Lakers beat Spurs

SAN ANTONIO -- Lonzo Ball hit catch-and-shoot 3s, a stop-and-pop from behind the arc, a couple of step-back treys and even one triple while falling down.

But most of all, the Los Angeles Lakers rookie made clutch 3-pointers, perhaps the most important of his career so far. Ball, maligned for much of the start of the season for the accuracy and form of his outside shot, buried six 3-pointers, including three in the final 2:46, to help the Lakers overcome a 17-point second-half deficit and stun the San Antonio Spurs116-112 at the AT&T Center.

Ball became the first Laker in the franchise's storied history to hit at least six 3-pointers and dish 11 assists in a game, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The No. 2 overall pick in last summer's draft finished with 18 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and two blocks to lead the surging Lakers (28-34) to a season-high fifth consecutive victory.

Since Jan. 7, only the Western Conference-leading Houston Rockets -- riding a 15-game winning streak -- have more wins (22) than the Lakers (17).

"Ball was amazing," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team lost for the fourth straight time at home for the first time since 2002.

The Lakers trailed 80-63 with 6:22 remaining in the third quarter and were down 103-91 with 5:43 left in the game. But despite being without starters Brandon Ingram (strained hip flexor) and Josh Hart (fractured fourth left metacarpal), they mounted a furious 15-2 run. Ball started the comeback with an assist on a Julius Randle (25 points) layup. Then he found Travis Wear, who scored seven points and came up with some timely defense despite just being called up from the G League, for a 22-foot jumper.

The rookie point guard then caught fire from the perimeter. He knocked down a 27-foot 3 off a screen to cut the Spurs' lead to one. Then he drained a catch-and-shoot 3, falling down, with a Spur defender flying at him to give the Lakers a 109-107 lead with 1:15 left. Ball finished the 3-point flurry with a step-back trey to snap a 109-109 tie and give the Lakers the lead for good with 42.2 seconds left.

"He went from hitting the side of the backboard to he can't miss now," Randle said. "[Ball is] just confident out there, making plays, making huge, huge shots down the stretch for us."

Since returning from a 15-game absence due to a sprained left MCL, Ball has shot 14-of-22 (63.6 percent) from 3-point range and is averaging 12 points, 7.2 assists and 6.7 rebounds in his past four games. He has turned around his shooting, going 26-of-59 (59.4 percent) from behind the arc in the past nine games he has played.

"Just poise," point guard Isaiah Thomas (21 points and seven assists) said when asked what he saw in Ball's clutch shooting on Saturday. "He is not always going to hit 3s like that, but he took it with confidence. He is a poised young man that has a lot of confidence in himself. Any type of situation he's in, he has the same mentality -- you never see him too high or too low and that is a trait you can't teach."

Ball heard all sorts of criticism about his shot and even suggestions from some that he needed to completely overhaul his unorthodox form after shooting 28.6 percent from 3 in October and then 24.3 percent from behind the arc and 30.4 percent overall in November.

"I mean, it wasn't affecting me -- I was just missing shots," Ball said of the intense chatter surrounding his shot earlier this season. "If it affected me, I wouldn't be shooting now. Teammates tell me to keep shooting, coaches tell me to keep shooting. I'm gonna keep shooting."

Ball was asked if he has proved critics wrong about his shot.

"I mean, people are still going to hate, I think," Ball said. "So it doesn't really matter to me. I just go out and play."

ESPN's Michael C. Wright contributed to this report.

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