Through all the ups and downs — and there were plenty of downs — Talen Horton-Tucker stood firm in the midst of all the challenges presented to the second-year Lakers player Tuesday night.
He could have easily given in when he had two turnovers in overtime. He could have easily shied away when the basketball came his way with the game on the line.
Instead, Horton-Tucker kept his poise and drilled a go-ahead three-pointer over his boyhood idol from Chicago, Derrick Rose, with 21.1 seconds left in the OT, lifting the Lakers to a 101-99 victory over the New York Knicks at Staples Center.
Horton-Tucker remaining steadfast in his ability to produce impressed Lakers coach Frank Vogel.
“Well, he’s got big guts,” Vogel said on Zoom. “I’ll just say that — big guts, and he showed that with that shot.”
There was plenty of good from Horton-Tucker during his 34 minutes 20 seconds of action.
He had a double-double with 13 points and 10 assists. He was four for nine from the field and two for two from three-point range. He had five rebounds and two steals.
But the bad moments still weighed on him after the game despite his big-time shot.
“I was more concerned about the turnover I just had,” he said. “That was honestly, just, I was trying to make up for it. Just being in that position, I thought, ‘Why not?’ The opportunity presented itself, and I just tried to keep my confidence and good things happen.”
Horton-Tucker had seven turnovers.
But with Alex Caruso going down in the first quarter with right foot soreness and LeBron James still out with an ankle injury, Horton-Tucker essentially was the last ballhandler the Lakers had available.
So, they had to live with his mistakes, hoping he would overcome them at some point during the game.
“I’m realizing everything isn’t gonna be perfect,” Horton-Tucker said. “I can try to, but if you try to be perfect every time, you’re gonna hold it over your head and you’re gonna stress yourself out. So, I feel like just trying to make the right decisions every time I go down the court is something I focus on, just learning. And I feel like that’s gonna help me. As long as I keep doing that, I’m only gonna get better.”
Talen Horton-Tucker shoots over New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose with 21.1 seconds remaining in overtime to deliver a comeback win for the Lakers on Tuesday night at Staples Center. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)
Horton-Tucker made a three-pointer to open overtime and two free throws to give the Lakers a five-point lead.
But then Horton-Tucker was called for an offensive foul with 1:29 left, leading to a three-pointer by Julius Randle that put the Lakers down 99-98.
On the Lakers’ next possession, Horton-Tucker had the ball picked from him by Rose with one minute remaining.
“He had a young-player type of night with a lot of good plays, bad plays situations, particularly down the stretch,” Vogel said about Horton-Tucker. “And I loved that he just kept his poise. He didn’t get down on himself. He remained confident. He got picked by Derrick Rose late in the game and then comes back on the next possession and bombs a step-back three to win the game. So, I think that tells you a little bit about him.”
As Horton-Tucker began to tell his story about his relationship with Rose, he grasped what making that game-winning shot meant.
Horton-Tucker, 20, attended the same high school in Chicago — Simeon High — as Rose, 32, who was the first overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in 2008.
Horton-Tucker said he had met Rose at his basketball camps and that the two of them text each other now.
So, making that shot over Rose did have meaning for Horton-Tucker.
“It’s big,” he admitted. “During the game at the moment, I wasn’t really thinking about it like that, just trying to win. But after, you look back and you just see it: Not too many kids from Chicago can say, ‘I just did that.’ So, I feel like it’s a blessing that I was able to do that.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.