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HomeSportsBasketballDennis Schroder gives Lakers boost off bench in Game 1 win

Dennis Schroder gives Lakers boost off bench in Game 1 win

Dennis Schroder had just picked up the dangerous Stephen Curry near halfcourt, the Lakers guard’s eyes glued on the basketball the Warriors guard was dribbling. In a flash, Schroder reached with his right hand and poked the ball away from Curry, stealing it and waltzing in for a layup early in the second quarter.

Schroder watched as Jordan Poole took a 27-foot three-pointer with 9.7 seconds left, a shot the Warriors guard needed to make to tie the score in a tense Game 1 between the Lakers and Golden State on Tuesday night at Chase Center. When Poole’s shot careened off the rim, Schroder hustled for the rebound, grabbing it with 4.7 seconds left while lying on the court, all while surrounded by Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins.

The Lakers called a timeout, the game now in their hands.

As fate would have it, Schroder was fouled with 2.7 seconds left. He made both free throws to seal the game and send the Lakers to a 117-112 win that gave them a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.

Schroder did his job in a variety of ways — scoring, defending Curry and Poole, rebounding and making free throws at the right moment.

“We know how he plays, especially in big moments. He plays the biggest. He’s not afraid of the moment,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said about his reserve point guard. “He asks for the ball to be in his hands. Our guys trust him having the ball in his hands late in the game.

“We know if he’s fouled or whatever, the play needs to be made. If it’s an open corner three, going downhill, attacking the rim, having to get fouled and having to step up to the line and hit free throws, he’s going to do all that, as well as guard. That’s exactly why he’s on our ballclub.”

Schroder’s offense in the first-round series against Memphis was below his standards. He averaged 4.7 points and 2.8 assists in the six games. He shot 36% from the field and 22.2% from three-point range.

In the first game against the Warriors, Schroder was a weapon for the Lakers.

He had 19 points, two rebounds and three assists in a little over 31 minutes off the bench. He was five-for-10 shooting from the field and made nine of 10 free throws.

I mean, the first series wasn’t … my Achilles’ was still bothering me,” Schroder said of a nagging injury. “At the end of the day, I still got to be aggressive and help Bron [LeBron James] and A.D. [Anthony Davis] if I’m on the floor. Of course defensively, I try to be aggressive, I try to make it as hard as possible. Offensively, I got to push the pace a little bit more and be aggressive. So, I found some opportunities in the first half.”

Defense is where Schroder made his mark, and that was never more evident when he stole the basketball from Curry.

“I saw an opportunity there and went for it and it was good,” Schroder said.

Along with Jarred Vanderbilt, Schroder’s job was to defend Curry.

They know how lethal Curry can be, even more so when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands, when he’s running all over the court, cutting behind screens, waiting for a defender to get lost for a tick of a second.

Curry had 27 points on six-for-13 shooting from the field, but he didn’t break loose in a big way.

It is a taxing job trying to keep up with Curry, but Schroder was more than willing to take on the task when it was his turn.

“I mean, whatever it takes to win,” he said. “It’s really, really hard. I mean, Steph is probably the best conditioning-wise in sports because he’s running around for 23 seconds and still taking the shot. So, just to be by him when he catches it, makes it really, really tough. So, I might … get an IV tonight.”

When the Lakers inbounded the ball in the final seconds of the game, they threw it to Schroder. He ran to the backcourt to get the ball, getting fouled in the process.

Even after chasing Curry all over the court, Schroder had enough energy to make the final two free throws.

“It was the game plan every time we were going into our own court, our own half, I’d run around, they’d foul me and just being confident in that moment to shoot it,” Schroder said. “I’ve been doing it all season so I’m glad I made it today.”

This story originally appeared on LA Times

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