LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers saw their season come to a close on Wednesday night by toppling fellow Staples Center tenant Los Angeles Clippers 115-100.
It was a short-handed squad once again for the Lakers with rookie point guard Josh Hart taking command once again with a career-high 30 points behind an efficient shooting night hitting nine of 15 shots from the field including a career-high seven 3-pointers in the team’s 35th win of the season.
Hart had the bulk of his production in the second half with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc with 14 coming in the third quarter alone.
This marked the fourth straight games with at least 20 points for Hart to finish the season that puts him alongside fellow three other rookies to have accomplished that feat joining teammate Kyle Kuzma, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, and Phoenix Suns guard Josh Jackson.
With the Lakers short-handed without three of their primary core pieces in Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball all out of the lineup, Hart took advantage of the extended offensive role that became even larger with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope checking out of the game just a couple of minutes into the first quarter due to right shoulder AC joint injury.
“The game started to slow down for me,” Hart said. “The big playmakers are out so we need to be a little bit more aggressive.”
In the final four games of the season, Hart shot 50 percent or better from the field while hitting multiple 3-pointers in each contest. Following the season finale, head coach Luke Walton voiced much praise toward the rookie guard while hoping it motivates him moving forward.
“It was great,” Walton said. “It should motivate him to keep working, that is the way that the league is. Opportunities are going to come to every single person on every team throughout the season. You don’t always get a lot of opportunities, but when they come you need to be ready and Josh was ready all season long, including this last stretch.
“It should motivate him to really work this offseason and say I don’t know what is going to happen with the free agency and the draft but his mentality should be that I am coming in to start at that position next year and that is obviously up to us to decide, but that should be his mentality all summer long.”
Although Hart is uncertain of his role with the team heading into the offseason, he is hoping that the promising finish over the last handful of games could help him ingrain himself as a key part of the Lakers’ long-term future in managements eyes.
“I don’t know,” Hart said. “That’s a conversation I got to have with Magic [Johnson] and Rob [Pelinka]. I am just trying to do whatever I can.”
Bob Garcia IV
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