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Lou Williams shows refined skills en route to 44 points

LOS ANGELES -- On a night when Lou Williams seemingly couldn't miss, lighting up the Oklahoma City Thunder for a career-high 44 points, the Los Angeles Lakers' reserve guard looked back to the time when he had to change his game.

It started in 2013, when he tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his season with the Atlanta Hawks.

At that point, Williams wasn't as athletic as he was when he entered the league in 2005 as a prep-to-pro player.

He couldn't play above the rim anymore, as he once desired. And, he said, "I wasn't scoring as consistently from making shots, so I wanted to create a different way."

His solution?

"I started learning how to draw fouls and how to create contact and use my reputation as a scorer to bait guys in to get those fouls," Williams said after his team's 117-113 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center. "That's been one of the things that I've been able to bring."

On a near nightly basis, Williams has displayed his almost uncanny ability to create contact and get to the free throw line, even though opponents know his intentions.

"It's obviously an art and he's been able to do it for a number of years," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "Seems every game, he gets somebody. I don't know how you scout him; he's going to get you some way or another."

That art form was on full display Friday, when Williams made all 15 of his free throws and, along with some long-range marksmanship, kept his team alive against a title contender by scoring 23 of the Lakers' 28 points in the fourth quarter.

All told, Williams' 44 points marked the most by any Laker not named Kobe Bryant since Shaquille O'Neal scored 48 points against the Boston Celtics on March 21, 2003.

"I think down the stretch, I made one, two, hit some free throws, things kind of snowballed from there," Williams said of his big game, during which he hit 12 of 25 shots overall, including 5 of 14 from 3-point range.

Williams also shot six free throws during that final frame -- and on both occasions, he was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer, which has become a common occurrence this season, as it happens in just about every Lakers game.

"Lou is absolutely exceptional at [drawing fouls]," Bryant said. "He can create contact from anything. It's unbelievable. He gets three or four of those a game going left. It's crazy."

Where did Williams learn that trade?

He credited his years alongside Allen Iverson in Philadelphia.

"He's like King Foul," Williams said. "I played with him and I was able to take the way that he played and kind of use that for me."

And maybe, some day, he'll pass that trait along to the next generation.

"I would hope," Williams said. "That would just be an honor for me. Throughout my career, I've been able to carve a path for myself as a sixth man, as one of the underrated guys in this league but still being able to get the job done. If I'm one of those guys that they look up to or they feel like they can learn something from, that would be an honor for me."