In the Lakers’ search for someone to provide energy against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, they found it with Wenyen Gabriel.
And the Lakers rode with Gabriel in the all-important fourth quarter, playing him alongside Anthony Davis, relying on the backup center as a defender and rebounder.
Gabriel did the job, playing all but one second in the fourth quarter, 23:16 overall, while collecting 11 rebounds to go with nine points.
It was “just his energy” that allowed Lakers coach Darvin Ham to trust Gabriel.
“He has a great, great nose for the ball,” Ham said. “[He had] 11 rebounds. He tries to defend, tries to protect the rim. … He’s just a spark plug, another one of our spark plugs. His size, his ability to run up and down the floor, clean up loose balls, and get offensive rebounds and putbacks. Really defends well. And he showed all of that tonight. That’s why we stayed with him.”
For all that he did well, helping to double team dangerous Dallas guard Kyrie Irving, it was a painful night for Gabriel and the Lakers, who lost the game on a last-second three-pointer by Maxi Kleber.
“This one hurts, bro, for real,” Gabriel said. “Tired of losing these close games.”
Gabriel entered with 4:16 to play in the third quarter and played until the final buzzer, with the exception of one momentary substitution and quick reentry, his play infectious and inspiring.
Gabriel had four rebounds in the fourth quarter, all offensive.
When Irving got the ball late in the game, Gabriel was helping Dennis Schroder on defense, using his long arms and sliding his 6-9 body to keep the Dallas star from getting off more shots.
“That’s part of one of the things with my skill set, is that mobility to do that with a player like Kyrie or I’m guarding a big, to be able to double, kind of slide and try to get the ball out of his hands and that was something that was my job,” Gabriel said. “And then when my guy goes help, go get offensive rebounds and that’s another thing that I’ve been able to bring value to the team.
“And just playing with a lot of energy and playing with a higher IQ and understanding how to play with different players. Like today, today was my first time playing with AD in a while and I think those minutes looked good and hopefully later down the line we get more…
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