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The Big Takeaway: Carmelo Anthony rediscovers his place in the Lakers’ rotation

Nathan Knight gets airborne as Carmelo Anthony presses forward.
Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony drives as the Timberwolves’ Nathan Knight gets airborne on a fake on Jan. 2 at Crypto.com Arena.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

The basketball landed in Carmelo Anthony’s hands with the 24-second clock winding down and the Lakers trying to protect a tenuous one-point lead late in the game against a scrappy and depleted Minnesota Timberwolves team.

As the Timberwolves defender closed out, Anthony jabbed-stepped and then raised up for a 24-foot jumper that settled into the net for a three-pointer, all while being fouled by Jarred Vanderbilt.

Anthony made the free throw for a four-point play that basically sealed the game for the Lakers with three minutes, seven seconds remaining, helping them pull out a 108-103 victory over Minnesota on Sunday night at Crypto.com Arena.

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“Well, when I got it, I figured we were up against the shot clock, so I didn’t want to swing it to my teammate and put him in a bad situation or a bad position out there at this point in time,” Anthony said after scoring 14 points on five-for-10 shooting. “I just wanted to get a little bit of space, peek at the rim, see where I was at, and that peek determined how I had to shoot the ball.

“It was just a matter of him contesting or not. I seen him leaning, so I knew once I jabbed him and he started leaning, that if I shoot it, that it was going to be a good chance I was going to get that call.”

LeBron James finishes with 26 points and leads the way in holding Minnesota’s Naz Reid scoreless in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 108-103 win.

Anthony had nine points in the fourth quarter, shooting three-for-four from the field and two-for-three from three-point range. He had two assists as well.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said that Anthony has “brought a great deal of basketball integrity to our team.”

When asked what that means to him, Anthony laughed.

“Yeah, Frank be using words,” Anthony said. “I got to ask Frank what he’s talking about.”

Well, Anthony was asked, what does he think Vogel was referring to?

“I just think that it’s my commitment to the game, to being better to myself and to my teammates — understanding that roles are going to change, my role is going to change night in or night out depending on the style of game and the type of game we’re playing,” Anthony said. “And I’m still motivated. I still love the game. I still work hard, still come to work excited about being here. I always said when I don’t feel that anymore, it’s my time to go. … So, I hope that’s what Frank is talking about with integrity.”

The Lakers’ blowout victory over Portland on Friday could end up being more significant than merely a laugher that heightened the holiday vibe.

Anthony has taken his role as a reserve with the Lakers and run with it, doing all he can to be a factor off the bench.

His pass to Avery Bradley late in the fourth quarter for a layup was another sign of how Anthony has evolved.

“I guess he just know who he is,” LeBron James said about Anthony. “He knows he is not trying to be anything that others may think he should be, or how he viewed himself in the past. He’s the true definition of an in-the-moment person, and he just has a sense of calm and just like, ‘This is who I am and this is how it’s gonna go.’ [He has an] aura about him. … It’s a breath of fresh air to be around every day.”


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