Anthony Davis hobbled through a turned ankle and the Los Angeles Lakers continued their march toward a postseason return with a 123-111 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
“He kicked our ass in every way possible,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said after Davis scored 17 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Lakers to their fifth win in their past six games to go above .500 for the first time all season.
Davis twisted his left ankle when he stepped backwards onto Lakers forward Wenyen Gabriel’s foot midway through the third quarter.
The Lakers big man fell to the floor as play continued on the other end. Davis had to be helped to the bench during an ensuing timeout, with L.A. trailing 76-70.
Davis didn’t miss a single possession. He checked back into the game after the stop in action and contributed to a 24-2 run by the Lakers that put them into the driver’s seat heading into the fourth quarter.
“I knew I was going to play,” Davis said after the game. “Tied the shoes up tighter and just kind off played off adrenaline until the end of the game and was able to get some treatment. But I’ll be fine.”
Davis said he would be in the lineup Sunday when the Lakers continue their road trip against the Houston Rockets.
The Lakers have nicknamed their road jaunt a “get back” trip, as they attempt to reel off four straight wins against four teams — Chicago, Minnesota, Houston and Utah — that beat them earlier in the season.
Davis has scored 38 points in each of the first two wins. On Friday, he shot 15-for-26 from the field and 8-for-10 from the foul line with 17 rebounds and two blocks.
“We jumped on AD’s back and he brought us home,” said LeBron James, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in just his third game back following a four-week absence because of a torn tendon in his right foot.
L.A. (39-38) is No. 7 in the Western Conference standings, trailing the No. 6 Golden State Warriors by 1½ games with five left in the regular season. The Lakers own the tiebreaker over the Warriors.
“Treat every game like it’s a playoff game, because we’re fighting for our lives at this point,” Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt said. “We’re trying to fight for our position and we still think the sixth seed is a goal for us and it’s still in reach. So, right now just take care of our own business and the rest will take care of itself.”
After starting the season 2-10, the Lakers are one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
As much as Friday was a continuation of L.A.’s turnaround this season, it also represented redemption on a deeper level.
It was December 2021, in Target Center, when the Lakers’ season first went awry, when Jaden McDaniels fell into Davis’ knee and caused him to miss more than a month.
“I don’t really try to think about that, let the negative thoughts get in my head,” Davis said of his past injury woes against the Wolves. “Just try to go out there and play.”
What’s more, the Lakers had only gone 1-5 in Minnesota since James joined the Lakers before Friday’s breakthrough.
“This game is over with,” James said. “Our focus shifts to Houston right now.”
The Lakers’ flight to Houston after the game was canceled because of a snowstorm. They will fly on Saturday afternoon instead.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham hopes his team’s momentum can continue to snowball in the final week and a half of the regular season.
“Just [want] us to remain tenacious, remain highly competitive, remain together,” Ham said. “Just know that we can’t be fat and happy. There are more things that we have to conquer.”
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