The Los Angeles Lakers need to win both of their remaining regular season games to keep out of the play-in tournament. On Saturday, they got halfway there.
Playing with Anthony Davis, Dennis Schroder and LeBron James — who had all been out for various reasons — the Lakers topped the Indiana Pacers 122-115. It's the first time in ages that the Lakers have had their major players healthy enough to take the floor for an extended amount of time, and they needed that to happen just as much as they needed the win.
Davis, who has been dealing with groin tightness for the last few games, looked great. He led the team in points (28) and minutes (35), but got a nice assist from James, who made his return after missing six games with more ankle soreness. He played 28 minutes and scored 24 points, and really picked things up in the last few minutes of the game. All of the Lakers' starters scored double-digit points.
Following the game, James said that he was dealing with a little soreness, but he was expecting that. He didn't seem hindered by his ankle at all, and that's what the Lakers needed.
Lakers finally healthy at the perfect time
It was essentially the perfect game for the Lakers to play at this exact time. The Pacers were without Domantas Sabonis and several others, and they’re playing for seeding in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. The Lakers, in a must-win situation, had all their guys back and (presumably) healthy, for the first time in ages, but that means they needed some tuning up.
The Pacers without Sabonis weren’t toothless — Caris LeVert and JaKarr Sampson both had great games — but they’re the perfect kind of team for the newly healthy Lakers to play to get their feet back under them as a unit.
The Lakers never ran away with it. After every 5-10 point lead they had, the Pacers kept coming back and giving them trouble — especially in the fourth quarter. They had a 14-point lead with 10 minutes left, but it had dwindled down to just three with three minutes left. Then LeBron took charge. He hit three straight shots — one of them his first 3-pointer of the game — to give the Lakers a bit of breathing room before the final buzzer sounded.
At this point, the Lakers only control part of their destiny. They have to win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday to get that No. 6 seed, but the Portland Trail Blazers also have to lose to the Denver Nuggets. If both of those things happen, the Lakers will avoid the play-in tourney. If not, they'll be playing for a shot at the actual playoffs. But on Saturday, the Lakers did everything they could do.
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