Anthony Davis is back for the Lakers, and they were all the better for it — defeating the Nets, 106-96, on Tuesday.
The win against a third-seeded (East) Nets team had its caveat with forward Joe Harris (ankle) and All-Stars Kevin Durant (MCL sprain) and Kyrie Irving missing the action. But Lakers fans ultimately got what they wanted to see in Davis’ long-awaited return to the rotation.
Los Angeles maintained control for the majority of the favorable matchup using a restored swagger missed from the Lakers’ recent spree of deflating losses.
Davis returned with a modest stat line but was an impactful presence on defense and rebounding that has been a void for the Lakers the past 17 games. AD finished with eights points, two rebounds, two assists and four blocks — making the most impact with resuscitating head coach Frank Vogel’s penchant for championship defense.
Brooklyn’s James Harden had a necessary standout performance as the remaining piece of the Big 3 — accruing a triple-double with 33 points (11-of-24), 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
Hoops Wire’s Sam Amico reported that Harden may be contemplating leaving Brooklyn as an unrestricted free agent this upcoming offseason.
“Of course I’m frustrated because we’re not healthy,” Harden said in a post-game media session. “It’s a lot of inconsistency for whatever reason: injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it. … I’m frustrated because I want to win.”
This time, the Lakers did not find themselves under the thumb of adversary Patty Mills, who still compiled a solid 15 points.
Still, Los Angeles’ greatest takeaway from the game was nascent chemistry in AD’s return, bearing plenty of upside as he returns to appropriate speed and the Lakers’ younger players learn to assimilate with the big man.
“Tried to do it on the defensive end to help my team,” Davis told TWC SportsNet’s Mike Trudell. “Physically, I felt fine; the knee felt fine.”
AD’s net positive on the younger core debuted earlier than expected and showed on the stat sheet.
Monk — 22 points, 6-of-12 on three-pointers — helped build the lead in the first half, extending his streak of performances that beg Vogel to incorporate the 6-foot-3 guard in a meatier role down the season.
Johnson and Reaves played their part during crucial minutes late in the contest. The former exhibited defense that GM Rob Pelinka has been lucky to buy on a 10-day deal, while Reaves contributed on the boards and the team’s overall gusto.
Lakers fans can find solace in this win, and they likely did on Tuesday — entranced by the winning scoreboard and Stanley Johnson’s Tide-endorsed undershirt that needs to get left behind in BK if he wants another contract.
LeBron James appeared energized from tip-off until the game’s premier sequence late in the fourth quarter when LBJ intercepted two passes to break away for open dunks.
He finished with 33 points, seven rebounds and six assists to still appear as the undisputed alpha on a refreshed Lakers squad.
Back to .500, the Lakers (24-24) are half a game away from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ seventh seed in the West. The Lakers remain on their toes in the seeding after the eighth-seeded Clippers pulled off a 35-point comeback win on Tuesday against the Washington Wizards.
On the eve of the second anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death (Jan. 26), the Lakers nabbed a win to honor the legendary Bean.