Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham is adjusting on the fly minus star LeBron James, who is out for at least the next two weeks with a right foot injury, as his club continues its pursuit of a playoff bid.
Fortunately for the Lakers, center Anthony Davis will be back in the lineup on Friday when the team begins a five-game homestand against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The short-handed Lakers beat the Thunder, 123-117 in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, for their fifth win in their last seven games.
Davis sat out the matchup against the Thunder as a precaution on the second game of a back-to-back. The eight-time All-Star missed 20 games earlier this season with a right foot injury.
“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 also been without point guard D’Angelo Russell, who is expected to miss his fourth straight game with a sprained right ankle.
With three key players missing, the Lakers used a collective effort to get past the Thunder. Dennis Schroder scored 26 points, Troy Brown Jr. added a season-high 19, and Austin Reaves also had 19.
Ham said multiple players will need to continue to step up in James’ absence.
“It’s not gonna be any one particular guy that carries that entire load that ‘Bron carries from game to game,” Ham said. “It’s gonna be by committee. We may have different guys step up on different nights, but to know that we have those guys available is comforting.”
Reaves made 5 of 5 field goals and 8 of 9 free throws in the win over Oklahoma City. The second-year pro has acclimated well to a larger role by scoring at least 17 points in three of his last four games.
Currently in 11th place in the Western Conference, the Lakers are chasing a number of teams for a spot in the play-in tournament, including Minnesota, currently in the No. 8 position. The seventh- through 10th-place teams in each conference play in the tournament for the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds in the playoffs.
The Wolves snapped a three-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 108-101 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Six players scored in double figures for Minnesota, which outscored the Clippers 60-38 in the paint.
“Everybody played really well and that’s what we’ve been waiting for,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said. “We’ve been hit and miss with guys but we really needed an effort like tonight.”
Jaden McDaniels scored 20 points in the win and is averaging 15.4 over his past five games. The third-year forward also provided a stellar defensive effort against Clippers stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
“I think we have the best perimeter defender in the NBA,” Wolves forward Austin Rivers said. “His ability to guard not only quick guards, but big guards, I don’t think there’s anyone that can do it better than him.”
Anthony Edwards is averaging 24.6 points on 45.8-percent shooting for Minnesota, which has won its last two meetings against the Lakers, including a 111-102 victory on Oct. 28.
–Field Level Media