Leave it to former Gonzaga standout Andrew Nembhard to steal the show in his first game against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in one of the NBA’s most iconic venues.
Nembhard, in just the 15th game of his rookie season, authored a storybook finish by calmly swishing a 3-pointer over James at the buzzer, fueling Indiana’s 116-115 victory Monday night and capping an improbable rally from a 17-point deficit with 9 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.
“Yeah, low-key it felt good coming off my fingers for sure,” Nembhard said in his typically understated manner.
Lakers players and fans watched in stunned silence as Nembhard’s shot dropped through the net inside Crypto.com Arena, formerly known as the Staples Center. Nembhard was immediately swarmed by teammates who doused him with water at the outset of a postgame television interview. Indiana president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard raced onto the court to join the celebration.
The 6-foot-5 Nembhard scored 12 points, all on made 3s. He also held his own defending James, who finished with 21 points on 8-of-22 shooting.
“That was an amazing experience,” said Nembhard, who missed the previous four games with a knee injury. “My first time playing against him, obviously one of the best players of all time, so I just wanted to compete and make it tough for him.”
Nembhard has been a solid contributor for the Pacers, who selected him with the first pick of the second round (31st overall). He’s made six starts and averages 7.1 points and 2.9 assists in nearly 21 minutes. He leads the team at 43% from beyond the arc.
Indiana (12-8) was 2-2 without Nembhard.
“Kevin (Pritchard) and his staff really nailed it on him because he’ll go down as a top-12, -15 pick in this draft when it’s all said and done,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “That’s where he should have been taken.”
Jalen Suggs, Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, Ben Gregg and Will Graves were among Nembhard’s former GU teammates who posted video of the winning shot on social media accounts. So did former Zags Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer, who played with Nembhard on Canadian national teams. Suggs hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to lift Orlando past Chicago on Nov. 18.
“Hey, anything can happen, man,” said Nembhard about his memorable Monday. “We’re just trying to stay 10 toes down and keep working.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Follow along with the Zags
Subscribe to our Gonzaga Basketball newsletter to stay up with the latest news.