‘He did a good job being a leader out there.’ How Dennis Schroder sparked Lakers to win
Dennis Schroder called it a must win.
And, you’d have thought with the Lakers still outside the NBA’s postseason picture, that a healthy Anthony Davis had to play.
But in a moment that explains some of the dissatisfaction with the current state of the NBA, a pain-free Davis sat out, the team choosing to cautiously monitor his previous right foot injury on the second night of a back-to-back set of games.
“It’s something that was discussed weeks ago and we’re just sticking to a plan,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said before the Lakers 123-117 win against the Thunder.
Schroder held up his end of the bargain, rebounding from a rolled ankle and a slow start to score 26 points and lead the Lakers to a crucial win.
“He did a good job being a leader out there,” Ham said. “... He made the proper adjustments, picked it up defensively after twisting his ankle and really leading the group.”
Schroder scored 12 points in the fourth quarter before fouling out late.
Troy Brown Jr. scored a season-high 19 and Austin Reaves hit all five of his shots and eight of his nine free throws to give the Lakers a win without LeBron James, D’Angelo Russell and Davis.
For Reaves, it’s the third time in the last four games with at least 17 points. During the last four games, he has made 19 of 25 shots.
Anthony Davis has a big night, but a barrage of turnovers and Ja Morant’s 28 points in the third quarter wipe out a Lakers halftime lead Tuesday night.
“He’s willing to try anything out there with his aggressiveness,” Ham said. “... But that efficiency is a result of him being more deliberate.”
His missed free throw late Wednesday — “It was trash,” Reaves said — spoiled what would have been a perfect shooting night.
The decision to not play Davis, who had 28 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks Tuesday in a loss at Memphis, caught people off guard early Wednesday when the Lakers announced he was out — particularly after Ham had said after the All-Star break the goal was to have all of his players available for back-to-backs.
But Ham said the stress reaction that cost Davis 20 games earlier this season was still enough of an issue that the team and medical staff decided to rest him.
The Lakers return home to play Friday, the first in a stretch of three games in five nights at Crypto.com Arena with the team hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies.
Ham said the decision wasn’t based on the Lakers’ opponent Wednesday, as the Thunder were without All-Star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Instead, it was based solely on the Lakers’ schedule and also had nothing to do with the team being more conservative following James’ significant foot injury Sunday in Dallas.
“He’s frustrated as hell,” Ham said of Davis. “He wants to be out there, but he also understands the process of us managing his foot the right way. And again ... it’s a stress reaction, so anything could set that thing off. The more stress you put on it, the more it’s gonna react. I’m not saying it flared up or anything. He’s absolutely playing pain free. It’s just something we’re monitoring that we want to be extra careful and cautious about.”
The Lakers have two more sets of back-to-back games this season.
Davis is expected to return Friday, and Ham said Russell is nearing a return. There was no update on James, and he wasn’t with the team Wednesday.
LeBron James will not play for the Lakers on Tuesday, and there’s a chance he could miss more games as the Lakers fight to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Six Lakers scored in double figures Wednesday to end their trip 2-1. The Lakers have won five of their last seven games.
Reaves said he thought the team was able to take steps forward with communication and chemistry, hanging on to the momentum they’ve finally grabbed in the final quarter of the season.
“We needed this win and we knew it coming in,” Reaves said. “... It was huge for us to come in here, gut out a win.”
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