Austin Reaves got the basketball on a dribble handoff from Anthony Davis with Patrick Beverley trailing on the Lakers’ guard hip. Reaves took three dribbles into the lane and shot a runner over Beverley.
Then came the moment of moments from the rapidly improving and evolving Reaves.
He leaned over slightly and lowered his right hand, the NBA’s universal gesture of, “too small,” a gesture Reaves proudly made toward Beverley late in the fourth quarter.
So, after Reaves scored 19 points, contributed five assists and missed just one of his eight shots in his third start of the season, he of course was asked about trolling Beverley, his former Lakers teammate and friend who had did the same thing to LeBron James Sunday night at Crypto.com Arena.
“I mean, he did it last time we played to Bron,” Reaves said, smiling. “It wasn’t something I thought about doing all game, but I felt like right time, right situation. And like you said, me and Pat have a good relationship. I respect him. It’s just me competing.”
It was indeed Reaves having the back of James.
When Beverley scored over James in the lane in the fourth quarter, the Chicago Bulls guard lowered his hand in the “too small” gesture towards James.
James sat back at his chair inside the United Center locker room and smiled when asked about what Reaves did to Beverley.
“[What went through my mind was] that AR always got my back,” James said. “ Always. Even though he loved Kobe (Bryant) back in the day more than me. I forgive him.”
James laughed long and hard, obviously enjoying the moment.
So, did Anthony Davis, who looked at Reaves and smiled after they ran downcourt.
“A little friendly trash talk or trash-talk gestures,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “It’s what the league has been about throughout the years.”
Perhaps more important was the play of the Lakers’ starting backcourt of Reaves and D’Angelo Russell.
They were impressive as a pair, efficient and complementary pieces for Davis and James.
Russell, who returned after missing the last two games with right hip soreness, and Reaves combined to go 14 for 20 from the field, three for six from three-point range and they had five assists each.
“Man, I love playing with him,” Reaves said. “He just plays the right way. Makes the simple play. Will go out of his way to ask you how you want to get involved in the game, like what play you want to run. Just little things like that. I feel like we’ve built a really good chemistry together on and off the court. We golfed together once. Just talking — and we talk a lot about basketball in those times. So it’s fun because he’s so talented but at the same time, so unselfish that it just gives a good energy to everybody on the team.”
Russell was seven for 12 from the field for 17 points and he was a plus-35.
He played the most minutes of any player, nearly 36 minutes.
“Urrrrr,” Russell said when asked about his playing time.
So, he was asked, how did it feel?
“I feel good. I feel good. It’s just easy,” Russell said. “If you had me in any other situation, just get thrown out there like that, you might have a little trouble, you might have a little trouble finding your rhythm and things like that. For me, I just let the game come to me and tried to do it on the defensive end and be locked in from that sense. And offensively just flow. We were popping. The ball was moving and guys were making shots and it was just easy.”
And in many ways, Russell and Reaves made it look easy on the court.
The two have developed a bond and it’s starting to show in their play.
“I don’t know if you can name anything Austin Reaves can’t really do,” Russell said. “On the offensive end, he dominates the game and myself I try to do the same. So, when you got us next to those two guys (AD, Bron) out there, the game is super simple.”
Russell said his hip injury won’t be an issue.
He’ll be ready to go when the Lakers play Friday night at the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team L.A. is just a half-game behind for the seventh spot in the Western Conference.
“No pain. No pain. I just strained it,” Russell said. “ So, me straining it, it’s a little inflamed and it’s going to hurt right then and there. I had a few days to kind of get right. I feel great. Like I said, the people back there, they took really good care of me. So, I try to give them a lot of credit for that one.”
This story originally appeared on LA Times