Pau Gasol rubbed Nick Young’s head during his post-game interview. The Los Angeles Lakers were smiling and feeling good. Two in a row, the Lakers started and ended the weekend as winners again.
Young returned from a one-game suspension and led his team to a 112-106 victory in Toronto. With a 10 am PST tip-off, the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors started at an unorthodox time, and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni used the occasion to insert rookie Ryan Kelly into the starting lineup for the first time this season.
D'Antoni felt Kelly’s second-half performance against the Celtics was enough of a reason to shine a light on the kid, and the kid did not disappoint.
The rookie responded with 17 points on 5-7 shooting from the field. His five rebounds, two steals and two assists helped describe the active role he played throughout his 37 minutes on the floor. For the second game in a row, the Lakers won, and that win had a great deal to do with Kelly.
Late in the game, Kelly made an awkward yet acrobatic shot before coolly knocking down three free throws to keep the Lakers two possessions up. Down the stretch the rookie came up big.
Along with Kelly, Young scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and finished with a season-high 29 points. This was not out of character. Young scored 28 points in the last full game he played. “Swaggy P” was back and the team was having fun again.
“Keep streaking baby,” Young said through a wide smile after the game. “When was the last time we won two in a row?”
“A little bit, huh?” Lakers sideline reporter Mike Trudell responded to the question.
“That’s what I’m saying. We got to keep going,” Young concluded before rushing off the floor and into the locker room.
The final score and statistics do not help explain how the Lakers fought for this win. They were down by 19 points in the second quarter. On the road, in the cold and with a thousand excuses, the Lakers could have packed it in.
The Lakers fought back, worked hard and won a close game on the road. Next stop, the purple and gold take their traveling road show to Chicago.