LOS ANGELES — After scoring a season-high 42 factors to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a convincing 123-110 win over the Phoenix Suns, Anthony Davis mentioned he is enjoying the spot his crew presently finds itself in: slotted for the play-in tournament with simply 4 video games left to play.
“It’s been enjoyable, to be sincere,” Davis mentioned Sunday after the Phoenix win snapped a stretch during which the defending champs misplaced eight out of 10. “We have been an excellent crew final yr, and that is the primary time since I’ve been right here that we ran right into a problem. This is a special problem for us.”
As a lot of a problem it was for the Lakers to maintain their heads above water whereas Davis missed 9 weeks with a calf pressure and Achilles tendinosis in his proper leg and LeBron James missed six weeks with a excessive proper ankle sprain, issues received even worse as soon as their superstars returned.
L.A. went 1-5 in Davis’ first six video games lower back. One of these losses, to Washington, Davis labeled a “must-win.” Two extra of these losses, to Sacramento and Toronto, have been James’ first two video games lower back. And after L.A. went 0-2 and James mentioned he felt a “sharp ache” in his ankle that he hadn’t skilled throughout his ramp-up, he shut it down once more, lacking the Lakers’ previous 4 video games and never even being current for 3 of them as he rested his ankle.
Not to point out Dennis Schroder being out the previous week as a result of of the league’s well being and security protocols, and accidents inflicting Talen Horton-Tucker (calf pressure) and Kyle Kuzma (lower-back tightness) to miss video games.
However, with Davis hitting one other gear — he turned the primary participant in franchise historical past to file a minimum of 42 factors, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, three steals and three blocks in the identical recreation — with that stat line towards a Suns crew with the second-best file within the league, the Lakers have discovered life once more.
“He units a tone for us together with his assertiveness,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel mentioned. “When he comes to play … wanting to dominate, then everyone else will get somewhat bit extra air of their chest and will get extra confidence in what we’re going to have the ability to try this evening.”
L.A. is presently No. 7 within the Western Conference — a full recreation behind No. 6 Portland — with house back-to-back video games towards the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets (on championship banner evening) and street back-to-back video games towards the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans remaining.
If the Lakers go 4-Zero whereas the Blazers go 2-2 (potential, contemplating Portland has Houston, Utah, Phoenix and Denver remaining), L.A. can overtake the No. 6 seed and avoid the play-in tournament.
Seeking that perfection with their backs towards the wall is giving the Lakers a costume rehearsal for the playoffs, in accordance to Vogel.
“I feel that is the silver lining that nobody is absolutely speaking about proper now could be that the final couple weeks, the final two video games, we have been taking part in actually every-possession-matters-type of basketball, which is what the playoffs are like,” Vogel mentioned. “That’s what playoff depth is [all] about. And typically you have got a playoff seeding locked up, and also you variety of coast into it. You’re not as sharp as you want to be going into the playoffs.
“But the urgency that we have been pressured to play with, I feel, has come out in Anthony’s efficiency the final couple of video games, and I feel it is going to profit our complete group.”
They hope to have their group lower back complete earlier than the common season closes. Vogel mentioned the crew might welcome Schroder lower back for one or each of Indiana and New Orleans video games on the ultimate street journey.
And James, who was lower back on the sideline for the Suns recreation and seemingly on his toes your entire recreation cheering the crew on, feels like he is on the cusp of a return himself.
“What I seen from LeBron in the present day … he is … he’ll be superb,” Davis mentioned. “Trust me. He’ll be superb.”
While Vogel didn’t present a goal date that James may very well be lower back within the combine, he sounded assured that the four-time MVP can be within the lineup earlier than the common season ends in per week.
“Hopefully we’ve got sufficient time for [his rhythm and timing] to decide up in a short time,” Vogel mentioned. “I’ve tended to study to trust in LeBron James in conditions like that.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope detailed what the crew has seen out of James whereas he is been on the mend.
“I really feel like he’ll be playoff-ready,” Caldwell-Pope mentioned. “Just seeing his exercises, he is actually placing in that work getting himself lower back collectively 100%. He’s displaying it in his exercise. Going laborious in drills, dunking the ball, so simply seeing that we’re very excited.”
It’s a sense that Davis was assured wouldn’t be shared by whichever higher-seeded crew finally ends up having to face off with L.A. within the postseason.
“I imply, we all know that we’re assured towards anyone we match up towards, particularly after we have been absolutely wholesome. That’s our mindset,” Davis mentioned. “Other groups, you have received to put together for simply because we’re fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, no matter we’re, we’re going to come out and combat. And I feel groups know that.
“They know that simply because we’re a decrease seed we’re not going to lower back down from anyone, we’re going to come out and play Lakers basketball, and I feel groups know that and really feel that as nicely.”