Nick Young scored 41 points, as the Los Angeles Lakers snapped a seven-game losing streak in Utah on Monday night. With the victory, the Lakers guaranteed they will not finish at the bottom of the Western Conference, and Young was well aware of the stakes.
“We didn’t want to be in last place,” Young said after the game. “I was trying to get my career high tonight.”
Young’s career-high was 43 points, and the player fell just shy of his personal best. However, Young was not simply gunning and pouring on the points for selfish reasons. Initially, the Lakers came out flat and trailed by 13 points early in the contest.
With two games to go, only nine guys available and the team playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Lakers could have packed it in and accepted defeat against the Utah Jazz.
However, Young was not interested in any of that, and his energy off the bench sparked the Lakers. Already leading the team in scoring on the season, the Lakers’ sixth man shouldered the responsibility of leading his guys to victory.
Young led the Lakers on a 19-2 run and finished with 17 first-half points, giving the Lakers an edge at the halftime intermission. Young’s energy was contagious, as the Lakers rallied and battled to take an eight-point lead after the halftime break.
By the time the buzzer sounded to mark the end of the third quarter, though, the Lakers and Jazz were level at 86-86.
Then, the Jazz’s offense stuttered, but Young did not. He continued to pour it on and scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to put the purple and gold up by nine points.
“Nick is fun. He’s a good guy in the sense he’s always laughing, smiling,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game. “He can get his shot off against anybody.”
Although a large segment of fans were hoping for a loss to get a better spot in the NBA’s draft lottery, one would find it difficult to criticize a player for playing hard--especially considering he is playing through a knee injury and on the verge of entering free agency.
For Young, the 41 points eclipsed his previous season high of 40 points. Young has been a fan favorite in his lone season with the Lakers, and his infectious personality has rubbed his teammates and coaches the right way. Often referring to himself as “Swaggy P” in the third person, Young had a way of consistently rising above adversity throughout the season.
Given his season, one would expect Young to receive several offers should he opt out of his contract, as is widely expected.
After the game, Young wrapped up his interview by telling the camera, “I hope ya’ll know Swaggy P can play a little bit.”