It's been a rocky few months for the Los Angeles Lakers, as the franchise has been forced to navigate long-term absences for superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
With James once again sidelined, Lakers fans could be excused for holding their breath with Davis back on the floor, but for this night at least, the eight-time all-star looked close to his best.
Davis poured in a season-high 42 points to go along with 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block, carrying the Lakers for much of the night as they topped the Phoenix Suns 123-110.
What a night for @AntDavis23... @Lakers move back within 1 game of #6 Portland! #LakeShow- NBA (@NBA) May 10, 2021
42 PTS | 12 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 3 BLK pic.twitter.com/sEupafrROX
Davis proved unstoppable in this one, despite shooting only 1-for-5 from the outside by parading to the free-throw line throughout. The Lakers big man finished 13-for-27 from the floor, while hitting 15 of his 17 attempts from the charity stripe.
Much like last season's playoff run, the Lakers also recieved valuable contributions from Alex Caruso (17 points, eight assists) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17 points). Lakers head coach Frank Vogel even went as far as suggesting Caruso should be considered for All-NBA defensive team selection.
Frank Vogel says Alex Caruso deserves All-Defense consideration.- Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) May 10, 2021
Entering the game in the seven seed in the West, the Lakers aren't afforded the luxury of easing Davis back into the lineup, with the 28-year-old logging 40 minutes against the Suns, two nights after seeing 39 minutes on a back-to-back against Portland. This could be especially concerning when you consider he left the game in the first quarter a night earlier after appearing to tweak his ankle and then reporting back spasms.
Even this night didn't end without a scare, as Davis appeared to clutch at his calf late in the fourth quarter after making a play under the basket. He would stay out on the floor and appear fine.
"I think I'm feeling about 20 percent of my old self...Just kidding," Davis joked after the game.
As for the pending return of LeBron James? "What I saw from LeBron today, he'll be fine. He'll be fine," Davis told reporters postgame.
💥 @AntDavis23 punctuates the @Lakers home W! 💥 pic.twitter.com/fDmWrw0Ok7- NBA (@NBA) May 10, 2021
James has now missed 24 of the last 26 games, including four straight. Los Angeles have just four game remaining in the regular season and trail the Portland Trail Blazers by 1.0 game to avoid the Play-In Tournament.
"He looks good in his workouts," Vogel said. "Obviously there's going to be a little bit of an adjustment period in terms of him getting his rhythm back. I've tended to learn to have confidence in LeBron in situations like that."
The Lakers face New York and Houston at home, before heading on the road to meet Indiana and New Orleans to round out the regular season. With the exception of Houston, all games will be between teams battling for playoff seeding, a fact that can be spun as a positive from the Lakers perspective.
Vogel described the games as "every possession matters" basketball and in reality it does if the Lakers want to avoid a potential win-or-go-home game before the first round even begins.
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