Despite another loss, Anthony Davis says Lakers believe they can earn a play-in bid
The Lakers stand at the precipice of their disappointing season.
They have five games left to right all the wrongs they have yet to correct in the first 77 games.
A win-or-go-home game in the play-in tournament is all they have to play for, and just getting into it — they sit 11th in the West and need to move up to 10th to extend their season — will take a lot of work.
“Until it says we’re eliminated, it doesn’t. Until that moment, we’ll know what our destiny is, but right now, we don’t,” LeBron James said late Friday night, after his 38 points and eight rebounds in 391/2 minutes still couldn’t stop the Lakers from losing their fifth straight game. “So, keep pushing forward.”
LeBron James and Anthony Davis combine for six points in the fourth quarter of a 114-111 loss to the Pelicans in what James called a “must-win” game.
The Lakers are one game behind San Antonio for the final play-in spot in the West, and the Spurs owns the tiebreaker.
After losing to the Pelicans 114-111 on Friday night at Crypto.com Arena, the Lakers are three games behind ninth-place New Orleans, which swept the season series 3-0.
Anthony Davis, who returned from injury Friday with 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, said, “there is a lot of belief” in the team being able to win and get in.
“We know the position that we’re in. We know we’re playing against some top teams. So, I think we have to believe,” Davis said. “I don’t think it’s hope. We don’t play off hope and ‘let’s hope we win this game.’ We have belief and I believe. I know ... everyone in that locker room believes. We’ve got to go out and get it done. It’s that simple. We have to win these games and we have to have that approach.”
The Los Angeles Lakers have seven games left, starting Thursday against the Utah Jazz, with LeBron James injured and Anthony Davis on the verge of return.
Both the Lakers and Spurs have tough schedules.
The Lakers host the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, then play at Phoenix (Tuesday) and Golden State (Thursday). They host Oklahoma City on Friday and close the regular season April 10 at Denver.
The Spurs host the Portland Trail Blazers, then play at Denver and Minnesota before returning home to host Golden State and finish at Dallas.
“I don’t look at San Antonio at all,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I mean, obviously, finding out what their scores look like. But our focus is going to be on what we can control and that’s winning the next game. … The next game’s in front of us. The recovery starts now. We’re playing essentially three games in three nights with a 12:30 start [Sunday]. That’s such a quick turnaround it’s ridiculous, so mental and physical recovery starts now. And as a coaching staff, you turn your attention to whatever you’ve got to do for Denver.”
The Lakers may not be at full strength Sunday against the Nuggets (46-32). James, listed as questionable, returned to play Friday after missing two games with a left ankle sprain and had just two points in the fourth quarter.
“It’s pretty sore right now,” James said. “So early start on Sunday. Hopefully it reacts the proper way for me in the morning when I wake up and I have no setbacks. So, for me, that’s the most important thing.”
Davis, also questionable, had missed 18 straight games because of a right mid-foot sprain. He missed four of five shots and two free throws in the fourth quarter.
“I felt good,” Davis said. “Last four minutes was definitely a struggle. ... Been a little sore. To that point, I felt really good. We know the situation that we’re in. Even though soreness in the foot, soreness in LB’s ankle, we felt like this was a game we had to play and obviously the next five games as well.”
When: 12:30 p.m. Sunday
On the air: TV: ABC; Radio: 710, 1330
Update: After losing to the Pelicans for the second time in a week, the Lakers need to win at least three — and maybe four — to get 10th in the West. It looks like they’ll have Carmelo Anthony back after he missed Friday’s game with an illness. The only time these teams met this year, Denver won by nearly 40.
— DAN WOIKE
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