The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on a late game winning three-pointer by Nick Young that was anything but expected, planned or orthodox.
"I think it's absolute B.S. that he doesn't get a steal in the stat sheet," Lakers coach Luke Walton said with a smile after the 111-109 victory. "He stole that pass. I told him that if you steal a pass, you better make the shot. It was a pretty incredible shot by him. Obviously, one of the reasons we like Nick on the court at the end of the game, he's not afraid of the moment."
Walton added, "He loves the moment."
Young also seems to relish the moment after the game, and he offered his own unique view on what had to be the most bizarre finish to an NBA game this season.
"The play was designed for somebody else," Young smiled. "Yea, I think they should give me a steal for that."
"ESTA ES MÍA" ��
.@NickSwagyPYoung hizo justicia por mano propia y le dio el triunfo a los Lakers (@AGMLA y @PintoLakers en @Spectdeportes). pic.twitter.com/FkQBeWGfZl — Los Lakers (@LosLakers) November 23, 2016
Young added, "I was in the way, stole the ball from Lou (Williams). He told me after, 'I'm lucky I made it.'"
Young seemingly jumped the passing lane and stepped in front of his own teammate to steal the ball and launch a deep three-pointer with 5.0 seconds remaining. With the Lakers down by one when Young decided to go rogue, the play would have probably decided the game in Oklahoma City's favor if the shot had not dropped.
"He made a big shot, apologized, and we are going to move on," Williams said after the game, before posting a hilarious meme on his Instagram account.
Considering the Lakers had not scored a single point for the previous three minutes and 16 seconds, though, Young's unexpected intervention proved to be the exact shock the Lakers needed to their system to break out of a stagnant funk that was about to give the game away. LA had led 108-99 before the Thunder scored 10 straight points.
"I just got caught in the crossfire," Young explained the play. "I seen [sic] the ball in the air. It wasn't supposed to go to me. I was in the area and I felt I had to take it."
Prior to Young's three-pointer, Russell Westbrook had put together a fourth quarter that deserved to be in a museum. The Thunder guard tallied 17 points and three assists over the final eight minutes and 16 seconds of the game, as the former UCLA Bruin led the Thunder comeback from down 14 points with 6:45 remaining in the game to leading by one point with 13.9 seconds showing on the game clock.
But then, Young intervened to send the sold out Staples Center crowd into a frenzy.
"It meant a lot," Young, who grew up in LA as a fan of the purple and gold, said about scoring a game winner at Staples Center. "I remember watching Robert Horry shots and all that. Of course, the Kobe's and Derek Fisher 0.4 seconds and all that. I got mine."
Young added with his omnipresent smile and unique laugh, "Mine's kind of unique that I stole it from my own teammate."
Even the Thunder's players seemed to be a bit confused by the play. Following the game, Oklahoma City guard Victor Oladipo, who ended up being the closest defender to Young on the play offered his comprehension of what had happened: "He kind of came out of nowhere. It looked like (the ball) was going back to Lou. He kind of came out of nowhere to grab it and shot it."
Thunder forward Joffrey Lauvergne saw the play unfold from the bench and shared his confusion through his thick French accent.
"I don't know, man. It looked like the shot was supposed to be for Lou Williams and he just came, take the ball, shot it and score," the Frenchman said with a confused half-smile on his face. "I don't know."
After Young had made the shot, the Thunder called time out to set up a play that eventually featured Westbrook missing a shot. LA won, streamers dropped from the ceiling and Young celebrated in an unexpected manner: D'Angelo Russell's trademark "Ice in my Veins celebration."
Russell was out due to a sore knee but watched from the bench.
Young explained the celebration after the game, "D-Lo whispered in my ear in a timeout and said, 'I bet you won't do the Ice in my veins' and I said, 'I'll do it for you.' He ain't here. He's hurt.'"
What is incredible about the celebration and the interaction is that Young and Russell had a massive public falling out at the end of the previous season when a secretly recorded video taken on Russell's phone went public and made it so that the two Lakers had trouble sitting in the same locker room. Most outsiders did not expect Young to be on the team when the season started, but Young and Russell managed to mend the broken relationship and are now the Lakers' starting backcourt when healthy.
"We're just motivated to have a great season." Young explained how his relationship has improved. "We're trying to be a unit and shock some people."
Next, the Lakers take on the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Wednesday night. LA beat Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and the Warriors in LA earlier in the season, which remains the biggest shock victory of the young Lakers' season.
Asked about the challenge of going up to Oakland on a back-to-back, Walton said, "I told the guys, it's us and the Spurs are the only two teams that have beat them, and we beat them last. So, they're probably the ones that are a little nervous now as we get ready to fly up to Oakland."
As the room laughed audibly, Walton looked around and asked the room full of reporters, "That's funny?"
Notes: Westbrook finished with 34 points, 13 assists, eight rebounds and eight turnovers on the night. Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers with 18 points, as six Lakers scored in double digits. Young finished with 17 points to lead the starters. LA shot 51.9 percent from three-point land.