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LeBron James leads way as Lakers step up in Anthony Davis’ absence, beat Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves' Ricky Rubio drives around the Lakers' Dennis Schroder.
Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio drives around the Lakers’ Dennis Schroder in the first half on Tuesday in Minneapolis.
(Jim Mone / Associated Press)

The message from Lakers coach Frank Vogel to his group was to embrace the moments they now will have with one of their stars, Anthony Davis, not playing for an undetermined amount of time while he recovers from a strained right calf.

One reality is that the Lakers still have megastar LeBron James to carry whatever load is needed with Davis sidelined, and the rest of this deep team just has to follow his lead.

James simply performed at his sustained high level, nearly recording a triple-double with 30 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in pulling the Lakers to a 112-104 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night in Minneapolis.

“Yeah, the conversations with the team were we’re gonna attack this stretch of games and be confident in what we have on this roster. Embrace the challenge of playing without AD and that every guy’s got to step up,” Vogel said on a videoconference. “Not just the next man up, but we have to do it by committee. And we saw that tonight.”

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The Lakers’ committee members essentially were the new guys signed over the summer.

Dennis Schroder had 24 points and four steals. He was nine for 15 from the field.

Montrezl Harrell had 17 points, going seven for seven from the free-throw line. He also was solid on defense against Karl-Anthony Towns, helping to limit Minnesota’s center to 15 points.

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Marc Gasol had 11 points and five rebounds. His three-pointer off a pass from James with 1minute 20seconds left gave the Lakers a 110-100 lead to secure the game. His defense on Towns also was key.

“It’s next man up,” James said. “We’re not expecting one person to try to pick up AD’s productivity. Nobody is going to be able to do that. He just brings too much to the table. We all can do more. We all can collectively do more and that’s our job. That’s our job to come out and do more, and we saw that tonight.

“The four guys that we brought in in the offseason, they all did more tonight. DS, Trezz, Wes [Matthews] and Marc. They picked up their play, and we needed that from every last one of them tonight. So, we’re going to need that while AD’s out.”

Lakers' LeBron James lays up to score as Minnesota Timberwolves' Jarred Vanderbilt looks on.
Lakers’ LeBron James lays up to score as Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jarred Vanderbilt (8) looks on in the second half on Tuesday in Minneapolis.
(Jim Mone / Associated Press)
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Kyle Kuzma started in place of Davis and had just seven points. But the Lakers got production out of the power forward spot with Markieff Morris coming off the bench to score nine points, all from beyond the three-point line, with Morris going three for five.

The Lakers had their hands full with Minnesota rookie Anthony Edwards, the No.1 pick in the draft, who had 28 points and was five for 10 on threes.

Here are takeaways from the Lakers’ 122-105 loss to the Nuggets on Sunday in Denver. The headliner? Anthony Davis’ Achilles injury.

But after his three-pointer pulled Minnesota to within five in the fourth quarter, Edward got a little overzealous and was called for charging into James with 2:57 left.

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The Lakers closed the door after that.

Kuzma scored, Gasol made his three and James scored to push the lead to 12.

“I like what we have to go to war with,” Vogel said. “In this stretch where we’re going to be without Anthony Davis, we got to have a deep team and I got a lot of guys on this roster I believe in. So, we’re gonna have the mind-set we got to continue to win every night, every time we take the floor, and it started from tonight.”

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Three observations

  1. LeBron James had a difficult time taking care of the ball, turning it over four times in the first quarter alone. He had five for the game.
  2. As a team, the Lakers were sloppy with the ball, giving it away 10 times in the first quarter and 18 for the game.
  3. The Lakers were on point from the free-throw line, going 11 for 11 in the first half and finishing the game 17 for 21 — 81%. Montrezl Harrell led the way by making all seven of his free throws, and Dennis Schroder was six for eight and James three for four.

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