The Los Angeles Lakers and Anthony Davis are living by the classic saying: it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
The Lakers are currently the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference at 35-25, managing to stay afloat with both LeBron James and Davis out for an extended period of the season with injuries. Davis returned to the lineup last week and is still being eased into action, while James is expected to return soon from a high-ankle sprain.
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Davis was not shy about the confidence he has in his team with the playoffs on the horizon — as long as everyone on the roster is healthy.
“No matter where we fall, we know that we’re capable of still winning a championship. Injuries played a part for us this season but we always say: it just makes it a lot sweeter at the end, to go through something like this,” Davis said during an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “I’d put us up against anyone. I don’t think no one wants to see in the first round. I know the type of team that we have and I know what we can do. I think we’re capable of beating anyone in a seven-game series.”
Going 1-on-1 with Anthony Davis ahead of tonight's Lakers-Mavs rematch. On the hardest part of his time out injured, how he and Andre Drummond are fitting together and what he thinks of the Lakers' repeat chances even if they end up a low seed: "I'd put us up against anyone." pic.twitter.com/BWTjywELFs
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) April 24, 2021
That’s a sentiment Kyle Kuzma agrees with, citing the injury bug that’s plagued the Lakers this season.
“I think seeding matters for a lot of other teams in the league; I don’t think it matters much for us,” Kuzma said. “Obviously we’re declining (in the standings) and we’ve got to just figure it out … We’ve only got 12 games left and we’ve just got to keep pushing and keep figuring it out. Get AD’s legs under him and get wins.
“We haven’t had our two best players and two players that this team is built around, so you add those guys to the mix and we can all go back to our programmed role,” Kuzma added.
Lakers Loosening Restrictions on Anthony Davis
Davis has played 15 and 28 minutes in the two games he’s been back as he gets back into the swing of things and minimizes the risk of re-injuring his calf or Achilles.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said there is no longer a hard cap on Davis’ minute and that the guideline is just to be responsible with his time on the court.
Anthony Davis has no hard minute restriction tonight. They’ll just “be responsible."
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) April 26, 2021
Davis looked better in a 108-93 loss to the Mavericks on Saturday but has yet to find his shooting stroke. Davis is a combined 7-of-29 from the field since rejoining the team and has yet to hit a 3-pointer.
Lakers Focusing on Chemistry Down the Stretch
With just a dozen games remaining, time is running out for the Lakers to build championship-level chemistry. As Davis noted, it’s been basically like “starting from zero,” especially considering all the new players LA has integrated into the lineup.
“It’s like you’re starting over with the guys and just trying to find a connection with these guys again,” Davis said. “They’re trying to find a connection with me. So, it’s like we’re starting from zero, which is tough so late in the season.”
There will also be a large shift in roles once James returns to the lineup. Vogel said his four-time MVP is still out “indefinitely” but video James posted on social media shows he inching closer to a return.
The Lakers are listed as 11-point favorites on Monday night against Orlando, per Odds Shark.