Lonnie Walker IV looking to make more contributions for Lakers in Game 4
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Lonnie Walker IV was still so excited that sleep was not an option because his adrenaline kept pumping after he had played a significant role for the Lakers in their win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
Walker essentially was an afterthought in the Lakers’ rotation during the first eight playoff games, but he was called upon in the ninth postseason affair and delivered the goods.
His 25 minutes played in the third game of the Western Conference semifinal series against the Warriors at Crypto.com Arena were just a little less than the 28 he played in the previous eight games combined. His 12 points against the Warriors on Saturday were just a little less than his 17 total in the five postseason games he played in before Game 3.
Walker said it was “like a dream” to be involved in a significant way for Game 3, something he’s looking forward to carrying over to Game 4 on Monday night at Crypto.com Arena in the best-of-seven series the Lakers lead 2-1.
“Truthfully speaking, I didn’t go to sleep until like four or five in the morning last night. I could not go to sleep,” Walker said after practice Sunday afternoon. “My girl was pretty pissed off at me. But I was really happy, man. I’ve been thinking about this for so dang long, and for it to pan out the way it did and for us to get the win, I can’t thank no one but the man upstairs for keeping me ready and keeping me prepared.”
Before Game 3, Lakers coach Darvin Ham told Walker to be prepared to play and then “double downed” on that conversation after the film session following Game 2.
Walker played in the spot that had normally been reserved for Troy Brown Jr.
“And he was ready,” Ham said of Walker. “He’s been out here kicking butt in the ‘stay ready’ [group] and really being a pro that he is. Going hard in the weight room, getting his individual workouts, group workouts and he was a starter for us at one point so my confidence in him never wavered. It’s just different combinations of guys that we wanted to take a look at while we were going through our process of getting to this point.”
Walker was solid in his role, going four for six from the field, two for four from three-point range, making both of his free throws, blocking a shot and collecting two steals.
He chased Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on defense.
It’ll take more of that from Walker and the Lakers on Monday knowing that the Warriors are 33-11 in games following a playoff loss dating to 2013.
The talk with Ham has Walker on alert now.
“It wasn’t as hard of a transition as it seemed to be just because I’ve been in the gym night in and night out,” Walker said. “But once he told me I just knew what I had the chance to do, the opportunity that has finally presented itself and that I’ve been manifesting for so long. I was dialed in before he even told me, obviously.”
Walker started 32 games for the Lakers this season. In those starts, he averaged 14.7 points in 29.8 minutes per game and shot 45.5% from the field, 38.9% from three-point range.
Then he suffered a knee injury in late December that kept him out until the end of January.
When he returned, his role had diminished because of the improved play that eventually made Austin Reaves a starter. Then came the acquisition of D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Rui Hachimura before the trade deadline.
It was a test of Walker’s mental toughness, but he stayed the course.
“Just mental fortitude, man,” he said. “To say the least, I’ve been through hell and back, especially growing up in my lifetime. So, to have some type of adversity of not playing the game that I love, it was hard but it’s not too hard. I’m in love with this game. I’m obsessed with this game and most importantly I’m only 24 so what’s yet to become always keeps me optimistic in life.
"So, day to day, giving it the best I can and understanding once my time is called, once my number is called, just being ready. Can’t make no excuses. At the end of the day, no one is going to feel bad for you. So, you got to go out there and play.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.