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LeBron James stays fresh: 5 takeaways from the rout of Golden State

Lakers guard Dennis Schroder drives to the basket for a layup against Warriors guard Mychal Mulder.
Lakers guard Dennis Schroder drives to the basket for a layup against Warriors guard Mychal Mulder on Sunday night at Staples Center.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Unlike the Lakers’ 117-91 win Sunday against the Golden State Warriors, you’re going to need to stick around to the end of this.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. LeBron misses you (well, not you specifically, but ‘you’ in a collective sense)

After the Lakers delivered a definitive blowout defeat of the Warriors in which they did everything right on both sides of the court, I asked LeBron James about something coach Steve Kerr said pregame. Kerr said he thought all things considered — the schedule, the short offseason, the empty arenas — defending their title this season might be the hardest task ever asked of a champion.

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And James, a little surprisingly, agreed. Unsurprisingly, he used the question to talk about how badly he wished fans were at Staples Center.

“You have to motivate yourself. Being here in California, like you said, us and Sac and the Clips and GS, we don’t have the luxury of having fans right now. I’ve been watching a lot of games of late and there’s been 1,500, 2,000, whatever the case might be. The fans, it just gives you an extra boost,” James said. “So, I’m just waiting. Hopefully sooner than later. I would love for us to start having fans here in California, especially here at Staples. It would just add so much for us.”

2. The perfect day

Great offense, great defense, no stress — the Lakers handled things Sunday night with an ease they haven’t had much over the last month.

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James’ energy levels were easy to spot early — blowing up Warriors plays like a cornerback perfectly sitting on a route. But he didn’t have to over-extend himself. The lopsided win meant James could spend the entire final quarter on the bench.

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Highlights from the Lakers’ 117-91 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday at Staples Center.

He played 24 minutes 24 seconds, his lightest workload of the season and the perfect way to set him up for the final two games before the All-Star break.

Asked what it’s like to get a win and to keep James fresh, coach Frank Vogel smiled.

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“I sleep better at night, that’s for sure,” he said with a laugh. “We want to make sure that we manage him the best we can. He wants to be in there and you expect that about him. So, you just got to make sure that as the games go by, try to stay away from overtime. You know, that’s been the biggest problem with the minutes for us is all the overtimes that we’ve had.

“But you welcome nights like this where you can keep those minutes low.”

3. The menace

The Lakers won for the second consecutive game when Dennis Schroder played for the second time since returning from NBA health and safety protocols. That is not a coincidence.

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Schroder helped defend Stephen Curry while giving the Lakers’ offense a ton of pace and force on offense. It mattered instantly. He walked off the court a plus-27 in the plus/minus rating — in the first quarter alone.

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He finished a team-best plus-32, helping the Lakers survive another game with Anthony Davis on the bench because of injury.

“It’s the player, but it’s also the group he’s out there with,” Vogel said. “I think our starters had a mind set to make sure we took care of business against a team that stole on the last time they were here and really came out motivated in that first quarter.”

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4. The new guy

New center Damian Jones, whom the Lakers signed to a 10-day contract earlier this week, delivered on the promise they saw when they signed him — a tall, bouncy big guy who could make plays at the rim.

Debuting with the game in hand in the third quarter, he scored eight points and blocked two shots in limited minutes before leaving because of a strained back. Jones said he hoped to be better in a few days.

“I felt pretty good being out there,” he said. “It’s something to build on. Something to watch film and learn from what mistakes I made out there and try to get better from there.”

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5. Anthony Davis back on the court

Before the game, Davis was on the court casually shooting jumpers — a sight we haven’t seen since he re-injured his right calf and Achilles tendon Feb. 14.

Vogel said the workout — and it really wasn’t a workout — was just some light shooting. But, in talking about it, Vogel once again re-established a four-week timeline for Davis, saying the plan was still on track.

If all goes well, Davis could return March 18 — four weeks after Davis’ misstep against Denver.


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