Lakers winless no more – ‘Needed to prove something to ourselves’

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers, who came into Sunday as the NBA’s last winless team 0-5, finally broke through with a 121-110 win over the Denver Nuggets, giving coach Darvin Ham their first win in the freshman year his resume.

“We had something to prove to ourselves tonight,” Ham said afterwards. “Not for the world. Not for the media. We had to prove it to ourselves and I loved how we responded to that.”

Ham’s post-match press conference has been postponed to accommodate a wardrobe change. His players christened Ham’s first win with a water bottle and an ice bucket soak.

“Very nice little dip,” said Lakers big man Anthony Davis, who returned after a one-game absence with lower back strain and had 23 points and 15 rebounds. “We can’t ask for more from a coach. … We deserved it, he deserved it and it was good to give him his first win as head coach.

“He gave a speech and it was like, ‘All right, Coach, we don’t care what you say,’ and then we drowned him with water.”

The only thing about as wet as Ham was the Lakers 3-point shooting. LA finished 8-of-16 from the outside in the second half and went 13-30 (43.3%) for the game after having their worst 3-point start to a season in five games in league history.

“I just think the ball had a little pop. The boys went in, kicked, found open shooters and the boys didn’t hesitate,” Ham said. “I’ve been saying it since day 1: shots will be fired. Our offense will catch up with our defense.”

LeBron James led LA with 26 points and eight assists, and Russell Westbrook made his second strong showing off the bench with 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

“To be a player of his caliber and asked to come off the bench, that’s really a guy who will do whatever the team asks to get a win,” Davis said of Westbrook. “Sacrificing his starting position to improve the team. He thrived in this role. That’s all we can ask for. I told him, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing, man. Everything you do is incredible.” In the last two games he’s just done his thing. Proud of him.”

Westbrook counted it up front, crediting guys like Lonnie Walker (18 points) and Austin Reaves (10 points) for helping define the Lakers’ 17-0 run, which stretched from the end of the third quarter to early of the fourth quarter and she sat in the driver’s seat.

“I love seeing my teammates blossom, honestly,” Westbrook said. “I’m happy when I see other people doing great things – my whole career is what gives me a lift when I see other people doing well.

Ranked 1-5 and 14 in the Western Conference rankings, there’s still work to be done before LA can even begin to feel comfortable.

Davis, for example, said his back still bothers him despite playing 37 minutes against Denver.

“One day I feel great and the next few days I feel great [only] feeling fine,” said Davis, who added that he was in a “good amount” of pain.

LA gets two days off before its next challenge: Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, the team that knocked the Lakers out of the play-in tournament race last season.

They’ll try to bottle the same group energy they played with against Denver, and perhaps add to the collective camaraderie that emanates from James’ annual Halloween costume party on Monday.

“We’re all here for one reason, and that’s to win,” said James. “When guys’ numbers are called or not called, we have to understand that it’s for the good of the team, not individuals. And tonight was one of those instances where guys stay ready and guys who are ready and their number hasn’t been called as much as before but they were still locked in and cheering on the group, the group that was in there.

“So that’s what the team is about.” Lakers winless no more – ‘Needed to prove something to ourselves’

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