The Los Angeles Lakers decided to pull off a surprise during Game 4 against the Houston Rockets when they inserted rookie Talen Horton-Tucker into the game. It was his first career playoff action and he’s wasn’t on the team’s roster until they entered the bubble. To say he’s inexperienced is an understatement.
What’s even more surprising is that he came in and put up five quick points, including a 3-pointer. Even the Lakers players didn’t know that Horton-Tucker was going to make his debut on Thursday.
“He likes to work, he likes to play,” Anthony Davis said right after the game. “He’s a fast learner, and he comes in and gives us everything. He’s always ready.”
He was only in the game for seven minutes but certainly made an impression.
Frank Vogel Talks Horton-Tucker
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has sung Horton-Tucker’s praises before but nobody expected the coach to actually put him into a playoff game. The coach knew he’d be able to rise to the challenge.
“He’s a talented kid,” Vogel said. “And he’s unafraid. He plays beyond his years.”
Those are some pretty strong words from the coach. He clearly believes in the rookie and it was smart to put him in a game the Lakers already had control of. They now know the moment isn’t too big for him and he could put in a couple of solid minutes down the road.
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LeBron James & Alex Caruso Also Have Praise for Rookie
Davis and Vogel weren’t the only ones impressed with the rookie. LeBron James also gave Horton-Tucker a shoutout after the game.
“He was huge in his first stint in the postseason,” James said. “I thought Rook was really good tonight when [Markieff Morris] got in a little foul trouble, and he came in and gave great minutes.”
“That’s just his special ability,” Caruso said. “He’s offensively super-gifted, and he’s got that Chicago defense: the pressure, long arms, getting deflections like you saw tonight, steals. That’s just who he is, man.”
While Horton-Tucker may have impressed during his short time on the court, he shouldn’t expect too much playing time in the future. He could get some more minutes against the Rockets in Game 5 should the team have a decent lead. However, with a potential matchup with the Clippers looming, the rookie probably won’t be seeing the court a lot after this series.
With the way the Rockets play, putting in Horton-Tucker isn’t a bad call. The Clippers don’t play like Houston does so it’s going to be a very different gameplan. The bigs will be a lot more involved in the Conference Finals. That said, Horton-Tucker could fight for a roster spot when next season starts or become an interesting trade piece.