Newsletter: Lakers highlights mount with overtime wins

Lakers forward Anthony Davis drives against Miami's Kyle Lowry, left, and P.J. Tucker.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis drives against Miami’s Kyle Lowry, left, and P.J. Tucker on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, this is Thuc Nhi Nguyen, a sports reporter for the Los Angeles Times and the temporary pilot of this Lakers newsletter. Dan Woike is enjoying the sleeplessness and endless laundry of parenthood his month. It’s been too long since we’ve landed in your inbox with Lakers insight, so let’s dive into what you might have missed.

On the rise?

The lowest point of the Lakers’ young season could have been the team’s blowout loss at Portland on Nov. 6. Without LeBron James, the Lakers lost Anthony Davis early to a stomach illness and were run out of the Moda Center in a 105-90 loss. (Certainly two blown leads against the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder are early lowlights as well.)

Russell Westbrook had his worst game as a Laker, shooting one for 13 from the field to finish with eight points, nine rebounds, six assists and six turnovers.

But he followed it up with back-to-back triple-doubles in two overtime home wins.

“We BS’d the game in Portland, we all know it,” Westbrook said after Wednesday’s win over the Heat, “and since then, we know what it takes to win. If we win the game, lose the game, we know, hey, if our effort was there, we’ll live with the results.”

Victories against the Hornets and the Heat weren’t pretty, but they were scrappy, showing the potential for a team that has under-delivered on early expectations. The performances were even better considering the short roster that got even shorter Wednesday when Rajon Rondo and Austin Reaves were sidelined with hamstring injuries. Reaves will be out for at least two weeks.


Undermanned and seemingly overmatched against a team that entered Wednesday night tied for first place in the Eastern Conference, Davis set the tone with 13 points and six rebounds in the first half and finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds.

With LeBron James out because of an abdominal strain, Davis, who signed a five-year contract with the Lakers last year to seal his long-term commitment to being the franchise’s leading man, is under a brighter spotlight. He knows it as well.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

“Melo is in my ear a lot about leading the team and just controlling the team, especially with LB out,” Davis said on Monday of advice given to him by veteran reserve Carmelo Anthony. “We don’t have all our guys yet so guys are playing a lot of minutes now, but it’s my job to make sure I stay in command of the team.”

The leadership role is familiar to Davis, who was thrust into the spotlight with the New Orleans Pelicans, but he said he’s taken a backseat around James. He’s back behind the wheel now.

The Lakers briefly lost their composure against the Hornets, picking up a delay of game and two technical fouls that contributed to a five-free throw stretch that let Charlotte back in the game. Davis looked determined to let cooler heads prevail Wednesday during a chippy first half against the Heat. The eight-time All-Star pulled the team into a huddle after tempers flared between Dwight Howard and Udonis Haslem, and Davis was one of the first teammates to cool Howard down after he was called for a flagrant foul in the first half, although the call was then downgraded to a common foul.


Davis had 32 points and 12 rebounds against the Hornets, saying Wednesday that the team took the Portland loss personally. Lakers coach Frank Vogel held the players accountable by holding a rare shoot-around before Monday’s game and then challenging them at halftime Wednesday when their defense wasn’t up to snuff.

The Lakers responded by holding the Heat to 38.5% shooting in the second half and overtime.

“This group is going to be alright,” Vogel said Wednesday. “It’s a little bumpy early, but we believe we’re going to do special things this year.”

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Song of the week

Happy Birthday

Westbrook turns 33 on Friday. He’ll be celebrating at Staples Center against the Minnesota Timberwolves as the Lakers go for a third straight win to match their longest winning streak of the season.

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