Matt Ryan's Big Shot & The Blueprint For The Lakers' Future
The Lakers may have something here...
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Rooting for the underdog is something that is ingrained in our collective culture. From a narrative perspective, a good story becomes extraordinary when the protagonist has to overcome nearly insurmountable odds in order to complete their journey. The Avengers could only defeat Thanos one time out of over 14 million attempts, making Tony Stark’s sacrifice all the more meaningful. The US Olympic hockey team was given no chance to defeat the Russians prior to the “Miracle on Ice”, making it one of the greatest upsets ever when they did.
Hell, who would have picked the Continental Army to defeat the British back in 1776? It’s the slim odds that make victory all the more exceptional.
Such is the story of Matt Ryan, the former Door Dasher and cemetery worker who just hit the biggest shot of the season for the Lakers. His game-tying three with just 1.3 seconds left was as improbable as they come, requiring a cross-court pass expertly thrown by Austin Reaves over the top of the Pelicans’ defenders. Ryan caught, checked his feet to make sure they were behind the three-point line, and fired while falling out of bounds.
Bottom. From Door Dasher to the newly-christened Dash Mamba in an instant.
Of course, as great as the shot was, it’s easy to forget that this was the Lakers’ second attempt at tying the game with a three. On their first go-round, Ryan was not in the game and Lonnie Walker, who scored a team-high 28 points, missed an open look. A pair of missed free throws by rookie Dyson Daniels gave LA another chance and coach Darvin Ham made a “gut” decision to call Ryan’s number.
Ryan was the final player to make the Lakers’ roster, with the decision coming down to giving him a spot or leaving it open for future flexibility and a lower luxury tax payment. I have a feeling Jeanie Buss, who was shown nervously watching the game from her seat multiple times on the broadcast, is more than happy to pay a bit extra in taxes to have Ryan on the roster now.
The 25-year-old is shooting 55% from three on the season and earning 13 minutes per game while appearing in 5 of the team’s 6 contests so far. That usage may not sound like much but it’s well over what the 15th man typically receives on an NBA roster.
Moreover, despite being on a non-guaranteed minimum contract, Ryan’s shooting is a necessity for a Lakers team that ranks dead last from behind the arc. And they have faith in him.
Ham shared that Ryan, who was frustrated by a 1-for-6 shooting night to that point, had told him at halftime “give me those same 6 looks and I’m going to knock them down”.
Ham’s response? “I’m with you and that’s the mentality I want you to have, and I’m going to let you know, Matt, if you’re open and you don’t shoot it I’m going to take you out of the game.”
Ryan rewarded that faith, the unlikeliest of heroes hitting the unlikeliest of shots with the game on the line. Sometimes, rooting for the underdog pays off.
The Path To Success Is Becoming Clear
The Lakers have just 2 wins on the season and 5 losses, slotting them in the 13th seed in the Western Conference. Their offense ranks dead last in the NBA as does their three-point percentage.
So why are Lakers fans largely optimistic about the team right now?
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