LOS ANGELES — After a contentious buildup to Wednesday night’s game that included a victory guarantee and a derisive tweet, it was the rookie, Lonzo Ball, who emerged victorious in his highly anticipated matchup with All-Star John Wall.
Though he scored just six points on 2-of-11 shooting, Ball had a game-high 10 assists and added eight rebounds to help the Los Angeles Lakers overcome a double-digit deficit and defeat Wall’s Washington Wizards 102-99 in overtime.
Wall scored 18 points but missed 15 of his 22 shot attempts, including a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime. He added nine assists and three rebounds for the Wizards, who suffered their first loss of the season after jumping out to a 3-0 start.
Wall acknowledged before the game that he had added motivation to play well against Ball after Ball’s father, LaVar, earlier this week guaranteed a Lakers win over the Wizards.
On Sunday, LaVar Ball issued a warning to the Wizards, saying they’d “better beware because Lonzo ain’t losing again [this week].” That prompted Wizards center Marcin Gortat to take a jab at Lonzo in a tweet, predicting that Wall “will torture” him in Wednesday’s game.
Although Wall said he didn’t want to make the game a “Lonzo vs. John Wall matchup,” he said in a pregame interview with ESPN that the remarks by both LaVar Ball and Gortat gave him added motivation to outshine Lonzo, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft.
“I think so,” Wall said, adding that Gortat’s tweet put him in a position where he felt he had to play well. “You have a lot of guards that play by talking trash. That’s how they get themselves going. Lonzo is one of those guys that don’t talk, he just lets his game do the talking. He’s very quiet, but he’s mature for his age. Definitely can pass the ball, he can score, and his dad probably wants him to be one of those kids who can talk, and he’s doing the talking for him.
“It’s kind of like a gift and a curse, because he’s putting the pressure on him, but he don’t have to guard them and play against him.”
While LaVar Ball’s remarks have made Lonzo a clear target in his first four NBA games, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reiterated Wednesday that he believes people are “missing the boat” when it comes to LaVar’s relationship with his son.
“I don’t have no problem with it,” Brooks said before Wednesday’s game. “I was the youngest of seven, my dad left when I was 2. My mom raised all of us on her own, and as you are growing up in that situation, you have some anger and some pissed-off moments and some sadness, but you have to figure out ways to be happy and proud and continue to fight, and he has a father and mother that supports him.
“To me, I think everybody is missing the boat. Does he say some crazy things? Does he really believe he can beat Michael Jordan in a one-on-one? No. But I guarantee, over dinner, his sons are killing him for saying things like that and are having fun. To me, laughter is an important part of life. They get it. They probably laugh a lot at the dinner table, and probably a lot of them are laughing at all of us.”
For his part, Lonzo Ball continued to keep his cool when asked about Gortat’s tweet and how other opponents might react to his father’s remarks.
“Coming in, I already knew everybody was going to come at me like that,” Ball told ESPN’s Ryan Ruocco in a pregame interview. “So I don’t really pay it any mind. I’m not going to get into any Twitter war. I’m going to go out there and help my team.
“I’m not saying anything, and I’m not retaliating. It doesn’t affect me in any type of way, I don’t think. I just go out there and play. It’s the NBA, so guys should want to come at me every night. I have no problem with it. So I just go out there, like I said, and play.”
Ball’s first three games of the season came against point guards Patrick Beverley of the LA Clippers, Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns and Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans. But Wednesday’s matchup with Wall represented his stiffest test yet.
“John Wall is one of the best players in the league, so obviously, it’s going to be tough,” Ball said. “But he’s going to do what he can to help his team win, and I’m going to do what I can to help my team win.
“To me, he is probably the fastest guard I’m going to see this year. So my focus on defense is just getting back and keeping him out of the lane. I know it’s going to be hard, but I’ve got to try and just slow him down.”
Asked about Wall’s remark that he would show Lonzo Ball “no mercy,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton responded, “Why should he?”
“That’s everyone’s mentality,” Walton said. “When you get to be as good as John Wall is, you don’t get there by showing other players mercy. He just said it publicly.”
ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.