As the Lakers’ game against the New York Knicks progressed, LeBron James began to realize Anthony Davis needed him. So he stopped looking for his own shot and he started looking for ways to get Davis more comfortable.
The result? Twenty-eight points for Davis and a Lakers’ win against the Knicks. The Lakers beat the Knicks 100-92 to improve to 35-9, dropping the Knicks to 12-33. The Lakers will remain in New York to play the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday before finishing their trip in Philadelphia on Saturday.
James had a productive first half, making eight of 10 shots and scoring 19 points. He finished with 21. Davis led the Lakers with 28 points, making half of his shots from the field and all 13 free throws he attempted. The Lakers also got double-digit scoring from Kyle Kuzma (10 points) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (13).
“I was more of a facilitator in the second half,” James said. “Tried to get AD going. He looked a little out of rhythm in the first half. It was a point of emphasis to me coming into the third quarter and the fourth quarter to get him going.”
It was Davis’ second game back in the Lakers’ lineup since he missed five with a muscle bruise on his backside.
In his first game back, he scored nine points against the Boston Celtics and played 22 minutes.
Davis was on a restriction of 28 minutes placed by the Lakers’ medical staff, but the game got so far out of hand that playing him that long wasn’t necessary.
On Wednesday, Davis had no minute restriction, though the medical staff told Lakers coach Frank Vogel they preferred he stay around 30 minutes. It ended up being almost exactly how many minutes Davis played.
“Still trying to get my wind back,” Davis said. “I’m just trying to find a rhythm again within the team’s scheme. I’m not trying to go out there and hunt shots or force anything.
“Felt good tonight. I was able to get to the free-throw line and see the ball go through the rim, which gave me a lot more confidence.”
After a lifeless loss to the Boston Celtics, the Lakers showed a similar lack of energy in New York, especially during the first half.
The Knicks hung close for most of the game and entered halftime with the score tied 48-48.
“We just weren’t making them uncomfortable enough and taking the fight to them enough,” Vogel said. “It was a tight score and we just knew we had another gear to get to secure this victory.
“Credit our guys, don’t think they shot above 34% or something like that in the second half. LeBron in particular, not only [had] five steals but he had several other players where he busted fastbreak, deflection, something like that. Denial. He gets the game ball on that end of the floor.”
The Lakers put a little bit of distance between themselves and the Knicks in the third quarter, a period during which the Knicks made only 29.2% of their shots.
Overall in the second half, the Knicks shot just 34.8%.
And as James began to look for Davis more, his own scoring diminished.
He took only two shots in the third quarter, making one.
They were his only second-half points. But four of James’ five steals and four of his five assists came after halftime.
“He knows when he needs to go score and he knows when he needs to pass,” Davis said. “He’s just so aggressive, so dominant. He gets it in the paint, and he’s able to go to the middle of the floor or go baseline, and if they help, he’ll make the right plays. And it’s our job to make shots for him.”
When: 5 p.m. PST, Thursday.
On the air: TV: Spectrum SN, TNT; Radio: 710, 1330
Update: The Nets (18-24) have lost four in a row and will have play on two days of rest following a 117-111 loss to the visiting Philadelphia 76ers on Monday. Brooklyn soon could be getting back Kyrie Irving (hamstring) and DeAndre Jordan (finger), who are listed as probable and questionable, respectively, for the game. Nicholas Claxton (shoulder) is doubtful.