Even though the Lakers were down 23 points late in the fourth quarter, Talen Horton-Tucker kept attacking. Even though the Lakers had no chance to win the game they once trailed by 25 points, Horton-Tucker stayed aggressive until the buzzer sounded.
It was yet another step in his development.
And for his teammates to see Horton-Tucker score a career-high 24 points during the Lakers’ 111-97 defeat to the Utah Jazz on Monday night at Staples Center left them impressed again by the second-year player.
“He’s growing every day,” Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “The kid can score the ball. He’s showing like a little bit like he can defend. I still got to get him, get his motor up on his defensive end, stay with the game plan. But he’s been learning and applying it to games every day. When we have practice, just talking to the veteran guys. He’s like a sponge and he’s really applying it to his game and we love him. Last year we threw him in the fire and he showed what he can do and he’s continued to grow since then.”
As this season has progressed, Horton-Tucker has improved.
He has taken his game to another level in April.
In nine games this month, Horton-Tucker has averaged 13.1 points in 25.3 minutes, 3.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists, all highs for the season. He’s shooting 43.3% from the field and has scored in double figures in seven of the nine games.
So, as Caldwell-Pope said, Horton-Tucker is a willing listener.
“I feel like pretty much everybody is in my ear,” Horton-Tucker said. “Everybody is trying to tell me, I feel like, the right thing that they think that I should do and just tell me what they see. And I’m open to all input I get and I’m appreciative that they’re taking the time out to just help me because you don’t always get that.”
Monday night was the third time this season Horton-Tucker has led the Lakers in scoring. He was eight for 13 from the field and three for five from three-point range. He had four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
As the game started to get away from the Lakers in the fourth quarter, Horton-Tucker did not let that stop him from playing hard.
He drew a foul from Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic, making both free throws to give Horton-Tucker 19 points.
He stutter-stepped around a Utah defender later in the fourth for a layup, giving Horton-Tucker 21 points .
Horton-Tucker also has been getting advice from Lakers assistant Phil Handy, and it showed in how hard he played.
“I feel like working with Phil, and all the other coaches we have,” Horton-Tucker said. “I feel like everybody, I feel like they’re trying to give me input and I feel like they’re trying to help me. So just being able to have a group like we have here is just amazing for my growth as a basketball player.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.