On Sunday afternoon, Jodie Meeks put on the best performance of his professional life.
Few occasions have called for a player to go to the podium in this lackluster Los Angeles Lakers’ season, but Sunday’s 42-point outing by Meeks was deserving of the honor. He scored more points than any other Laker this season and became the first player wearing purple and gold to score over 40 points in over five years--excluding Kobe Bryant, of course.
Meeks’ overall production was highlighted by a third quarter where the shooter caught fire. In the quarter, Meeks drained five of his seven attempts, and four of those makes were from beyond the arc. He notched 20 points over those 12 meaningful minutes. In that quarter, the Lakers dropped down by as many as 12 points, but the 6-foot 4-inch guard out of Kentucky led the Lakers to a 12-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
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Worth keeping in mind, by the time the shooting guard sat down for a rest at the end of the third period, he had scored more points in the quarter than anyone else had tabbed in the game—including Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
In the final period, all Meeks did was guard Westbrook, one of the most explosive guards in the game, and hold him to two makes on seven attempts. Also, Meeks was perfect from the field and made both of his shots down the winning stretch.
This season, the 26-year-old has made a case for most improved player. His work in the offseason has Meeks averaging 14.8 points per game and shooting 46 percent from the field this season. A season ago, he averaged 7.9 points per game and shot 39 percent from the field.
Meeks’ improved finishing around the basket is responsible for the refinement of those statistical averages. Stated simply, Meeks is a reliable finisher around the basket, and that was not a true statement one season ago.
At his size, rebounding is not a strong area and his passing abilities are still limited, but his defense has improved. Whereas he was averaging less than a steal per game one season ago, Meeks is averaging a career-high 1.7 steals this season. Guarding Westbrook was an example of him rising to the challenge defensively, as Meeks also did in the Lakers’ surprise win over Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail-Blazers recently.
Originally presented as a three-point specialist, the shooting guard shot a meek 36 percent from behind the arc in 2012-13. In 2013-14, Meeks improved to 39.4 percent, which ranks 23rd overall in the NBA.
- Read: Meeks Goes for 42
With the Lakers in the talent evaluation portion of their season, one would have to argue that Meeks has performed consistently enough to warrant bringing him back. Whether or not he slips through the fingers to a higher bidder remains to be seen, but for his part, Meeks has earned a spot on next year’s team.
On Sunday, the Lakers treated Meeks like a guy they would like to bring back. Normally suffocated by a small group of reporters and television cameras at his locker, Meeks was allowed to shower, dress in peace and walk into the press room where reporters were packed in waiting to ask question about his career night.
Over two seasons with the Lakers, Meeks has displayed the ability to provide consistent effort and improve. In short, he’s a keeper.