Austin Reaves chalked up the first NBA start of his career in the 105-102 loss to the L.A. Clippers, celebrating it with a few notable plays.
Reaves clocked in the most minutes in a single game this season with nearly 33 on Friday, ending the night with six points, three assists, an offensive rebound, and a couple of blocks. Those two rejections helped the Lakers keep their second-half comeback rally alive, allowing the Purple and Gold to get back in the lead late in the third quarter.
Also, Reaves’ blocks happened to come against Reggie Jackson, who had driven past the Lakers rookie to score the game-winning bucket in the previous meeting between the two sides. But the 23-year-old guard said he didn’t seek revenge when swatting away Jackson’s shots in the third quarter.
“He’s a really good player, he scores on people all the time so it’s nothing, I don’t think about whatever happened in the past,” Reaves said. “I really just stay in the moment, trying to do whatever it takes to help our team be successful.”
Reaves’ blocks mattered for a different reason. The guard said plays like those provide the team and the home crowd with an energy boost, which the Lakers particularly needed while coming back from a 16-point deficit.
“Those are hustle plays that I feel like get everybody involved, the crowd as well, your teammates as well,” Reaves said.
“It really just gives a different energy for the team and the crowd that you need when you’re down 10 at half and then coming out in the third. We started off kind of slow but defensively, we were locked in and we were doing a lot of things defensively really well so we were just trying to compete and do whatever it took.”
Reaves has frequently been targeted by opposing offenses, hoping his lack of experience will result in defensive breakdowns. But the guard usually stands his ground, proving his talent and skills on the defensive end.
Reaves said the Lakers’ opponents still use the strategy during games, although he hasn’t been targeted as often as he was in the first weeks of the season.
“I don’t know, I feel like people still try to target me a fair share of times,” he said. “But I will say it’s changed a little bit since the first of the year. But at the end of the day, they do what they do and the only thing I can control is what I do.”
Reaves was supposed to start games earlier in 2021-22
Reaves said his first NBA start made for “a pretty amazing moment.” Also, the Oklahoma alum revealed he had almost featured in the Lakers’ starting lineup before, but “unfortunate situations” then unexpectedly took the honor away from him/
“[T]here was a couple times earlier in the year where they would tell me and then sometime before game time or whatever it would get changed for some reason,” Reaves said.
“But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who starts honestly, I just want to play well in the game. I think one was the hamstring, one was I think it was in Minnesota when I got COVID so it was just unfortunate situations.”
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