‘It’s tough’: AD fuels win, but out of back-to-back
- Lakers and NBA reporter for ESPN.
- Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for ESPN.com and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09.
NEW ORLEANS — After a massive performance in a must-have 123-108 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, Los Angeles Lakers star big man Anthony Davis will sit out Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets, according to coach Darvin Ham.
“He’s not going to play,” Ham said after Davis put up 35 points and 17 rebounds against his former team. “He hasn’t been cleared. Even though he’s been playing pain-free, we made an organizational decision, starting with our team doctors, to hold him out of back-to-backs.”
Davis was reevaluated by Lakers medical personnel about two weeks ago after sitting out the second night of a back-to-back against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
His right foot, which caused him to miss 20 games earlier in the season because of a stress reaction and a bone spur that fractured off the navicular bone, did not show significant healing, sources told ESPN. The doctors stuck to the same recommendation not to put Davis at risk of a setback from overexposure by participating in back-to-back games.
“It’s just one of those things where even though he’s playing pain-free, it’s still an active injury,” Ham said. “So we have to monitor it and stick to the plan, as we always have done. And just go out there with our other guys and try to get a W and finish the trip the right way.”
With the Lakers up 75-40 at the half Tuesday, Ham said he considered resting Davis to try to save him for Wednesday, but he ended up needing to play Davis 17 minutes in the second half as New Orleans cut the cushion all the way down to 13 in the fourth quarter.
“It definitely was a thought, but obviously, that’s a hell of a ballclub over there that has a lot of pride and they made their push,” Ham said. “So having to reinsert him into the game kind of nixed any delusions of grandeur.”
Davis was instrumental in the win, scoring L.A.’s first six points and sparking a Lakers attack that blitzed New Orleans, leading by as many as 40 points. It was his ninth game with 30-plus points and 15-plus rebounds this season, passing the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo for most such games in the NBA.
And the victory gave L.A. a 3-1 edge in the season series with New Orleans, which could prove crucial down the road if a tiebreaker scenario comes into play for postseason seeding.
But, with the Lakers actually moving from No. 9 to No. 10 in the Western Conference on Tuesday even with the win because Oklahoma City beat the Brooklyn Nets, there’s no breathing room.
Especially considering that Houston beat the Boston Celtics, owners of the second-best record in the league, 111-109 on Monday.
“I mean, it’s tough,” Davis said. “Especially because each game, obviously, you want to go out and play. But before I even came back, it’s something the doctors and the organization discussed that they thought it would be best for me not to play back-to-backs … It’s still a stress reaction. And we’re doing all the right things to make sure that I’m ready to go and I still need that day break. Obviously it sucks.”
Malik Beasley, who broke out of a 5-for-23 slump from 3 in his previous four games to explode for 24 points while hitting 7-of-12 from deep against the Pelicans, said Davis’ absence should narrow L.A.’s focus against the Rockets.
“It’s hard to get up for those games against people who are in the bottom half of the standings, but we know that this game [against New Orleans] doesn’t matter unless we win tomorrow,” Beasley said of Houston (16-52). “I think that’s the message going in and we can’t let up on them no matter what it is. We can’t get bored with success.”
The last time Davis sat out, the Lakers beat the Thunder on the road. And that was without D’Angelo Russell.
All they have to do is do it again, in Houston.
“A lot of teams that didn’t win all season try to make up for it at the end of the year like this,” said Russell, who scored 17 points against the Pelicans. “You come in there with the wrong mentality, they’ll take advantage of it. So just try to have the right business approach going into the game is one thing I can control, and then we’ll get into the game and opportunities present themselves when the game starts.”
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