LeBron James, Anthony Davis return in Lakers’ fourth straight win
James had missed the last six games with the injury. He wanted to make sure it was healed this time after he played in two games, against Sacramento and Toronto, and was sidelined again after the Raptors game because of pain in the ankle. Or he at least wanted to be somewhat pain-free. He missed 20 games earlier in the season after suffering a high ankle sprain March 20 against the Atlanta Hawks.
Perhaps the clearest indication that James is ready was him running the lane, taking a lob pass from the also returning Dennis Schroder and throwing down a one-handed dunk in the first quarter.
James’ ankle is just fine, and so were the Lakers in extending their winning streak to four with a 122-115 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis.
He took control of the game in the fourth quarter when the Lakers were struggling, scoring seven consecutive points to finish with 24 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in 28 minutes 27 seconds.
“I feel pretty good. A lot better than I did last time I suited up,” James said on a videoconference. “Just putting in a lot of work, obviously off the floor, just getting my ankle right, getting my foot right. But I felt pretty good going into the game. And the last game I played, I think that was Toronto — I think that halftime break kind of stiffened my leg up, stiffened my ankle up. But [today] it was a complete 180 for me and allowed me to still play the game that I wanted to play. So, I think every game I’m going to get better and better, but it was a good first time out.”
Schroder had been in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, missing the last seven games over the course of almost two weeks. It was the second time he has dealt with COVID-19-related issues, missing four games in February because of contact tracing.
When asked how he was feeling after playing 26:41, finishing with 14 points and four assists, Schroder said, “At least I can’t get it no more in the playoffs, so that’s probably the best thing.”
He then was asked to clarify on whether he tested positive for the coronavirus.
“No, I didn’t test positive,” he said. “I went to separate things to get tested. But I mean, it is what it is. I’m the only guy that didn’t get vaccinated. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Schroder said he was “gonna play for sure” Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans in the Lakers’ final regular-season game.
Anthony Davis, who missed the previous game against the Houston Rockets because of adductor tightness, had 28 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Like James, Davis said he’ll leave it up to Lakers coach Frank Vogel and the medical staff on playing in the back-to-back game against the Pelicans.
The Lakers still have a shot at avoiding the NBA’s play-in tournament.
Though they have the same record as Portland at 41-30, the Lakers are currently the seventh seed in the Western Conference because the Trail Blazers hold the series tiebreaker 2-1.
But if the Lakers defeat the Pelicans and the Trail Blazers lose their finale at home to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, Los Angeles would be the sixth seed and guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, playing the Nuggets.
If the Lakers remain in seventh place, they’d play Wednesday against the eighth seed, either Golden State or Memphis, with the winner claiming the seventh seed and a first-round matchup against Utah or Phoenix.
“Let the chips fall where they may,” James said. “As simple as that. We’re ready to go.”
“Same way,” Davis said. “We’re ready to play whatever game. Whether it’s playoffs, whether we’re the six-seed or whether we’ve got to play in the play-in for the seventh seed as a seven seed, then we don’t care. It’s not gonna stop us one way or the other.”
For James, his real moment of truth in the game was elevating for the dunk, a sign that his ankle was just fine.
“DS [Dennis Schroder] threw it up there and that was a test for me,” James said. “It was a test for me to go up and get it and I was able to finish it home. It was a good test for my ankle and a good play for our team.”
AT NEW ORLEANS
When: 6 p.m. PDT, Sunday
On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330
Update: The Lakers will finish the regular season playing back-to-back games for the fourth time this month. The Pelicans have lost three straight games, five of their last seven and will miss the postseason.
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