Every person sitting on the Lakers’ bench rose and gathered around Anthony Davis. Players and coaches wore concerned expressions as trainers worked on Davis, who clutched his lower back Tuesday night.
It was late in the third quarter of the Lakers’ 117-87 victory over the New York Knicks and Davis had taken a fall after being called for a foul. After hitting the floor, he banged on it with his fist. Even after the horn signaling the end of the timeout sounded, the crowd remained affixed to its spot under the basket.
“Fingers crossed,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of what went through his mind. “Hope for the best, pray for the best. Hopefully he gets up and it’s not too bad.”
“I was scared,” Lakers guard Quinn Cook said. “But I know he’s tough. But you never want to see anybody go down as hard and as impactful as he did.”
Eventually, Davis rose with the help of LeBron James. He walked gingerly to the locker room. Davis later had X-rays that returned negative, but he was sore because of a sacral contusion, which is a bruise to the bone right above the tailbone. He’ll likely miss time.
It was a tense moment during a game that mostly went smoothly for the Lakers.
When last the Lakers and Knicks met, they were both dysfunctional franchises in the country’s two biggest markets. The Lakers righted their ship over the summer, the Knicks did not. That showed Tuesday night when the Lakers (30-7) rolled over the Knicks (10-27), never trailing after the first quarter.
James scored 31 points, making nine of 19 shots, including six of 12 three-point tries. It was only the eighth game in his career that James has attempted at least 12 three-pointers, and four of those games have come against the Knicks.
“They were just daring me to shoot all game,” James said. “They went under every last pick-and-roll I had, daring me to shoot and I just tried to make the right play.”
Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope joined James in scoring in double digits. Davis scored only five points, but he had six rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. A game after the Lakers had 20 blocks against the Detroit Pistons, they combined for 11 blocks. Dwight Howard had five of them, to go with 13 rebounds, in 25 minutes. Kuzma had 16 points in 20 minutes.
There was doubt as to whether James would play at all. He had been feeling ill and left shootaround early to get some rest. When he arrived at Staples Center around 5:45, James walked in carrying a bag of peeled oranges and coughing occasionally. But after meeting with team doctors, James decided to play.
“All day he was feeling really lousy,” Vogel said. “But he wanted to tough it out. Credit to him for playing through something like that. … He was outstanding tonight.”
The Lakers also were unsure about Bradley, who seemed to suffer a bad ankle sprain Sunday against the Pistons. Bradley experienced minimal swelling overnight and felt healthy enough Tuesday to play.
Although the Lakers did not have the kind of fast-paced start they had against the Suns and Pelicans last week, they didn’t really need it. They led by five after one quarter despite making only 30% of their shots in the early part of the quarter and turning the ball over five times.
The second quarter gave them an opportunity to extend their lead. The Lakers made 68.4% of their shots and, despite committing six turnovers, outscored the Knicks by 12.
The first half also saw one ejection. Bobby Portis was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul after swiping at Caldwell-Pope’s head. James jumped in Portis’ face.
“I knew it definitely was not a basketball play,” James said.
Caldwell-Pope underwent concussion testing and was cleared to return to the game. He finished with 15 points, making five of seven shots.
After the game, Davis was in the locker room to greet his teammates. He laughed and joked with them and told them he’d let them know how he was doing as soon as he could.
“I asked him if I could do anything for him. He said you got a win for me,” James said. “That’s what our team is all about.”
Davis then left the arena on the back of a cart. He got off it under his own power and got into the back seat of a car. His night would later include an MRI.