Anthony Davis excellent in return, but Lakers’ postseason hopes on life support after crucial loss to Pelicans


The Los Angeles Lakers seemingly got what they needed for the stretch run of the regular season when Anthony Davis and LeBron James both took the floor for Friday’s crucial matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans. Needing a win to keep pace with the San Antonio Spurs for the final play-in spot in the Western Conference, Davis played in his first game since injuring his foot in mid-February, while James returned from a two-game absence due to a sprained ankle.

Despite a productive game from both stars, the Lakers fell to the Pelicans, 114-111, making the path to the postseason incredibly difficult over the final five games of the season. Davis looked great from the opening tip, finishing with 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists on 8-for-17 shooting in 37 minutes — a healthy dose of playing time for his first game back.

“I felt good,” Davis said after the game. “Last four minutes was definitely a struggle. … But up to that point I felt really good.”

Perhaps more importantly, considering his injury history, Davis also took several hard falls throughout the game and was able to continue playing with no visible signs of discomfort. James scored 21 of his 38 points in the third quarter — the most he’s scored in any quarter this season — but scored just two points in the final frame and airballed a potential game-tying 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, giving the Lakers another disappointing loss.

James and Davis combined to score six points on 2-for-9 shooting in the fourth quarter.

“It was pretty much a must-win for us, and we didn’t get the job done,” James said after the game.

At 31-46, the Lakers now trail the San Antonio Spurs by one game with five remaining for each team. The Spurs, however, hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers, which would mean that Los Angeles would have to finish two games better than San Antonio over the final stretch in order to make the play-in. That doesn’t seem too far-fetched, but a look at the schedule shows you how difficult of a climb it will be for the Lakers.

The Spurs play the Blazers, Nuggets, Wolves, Warriors and Mavericks to finish out the season. The Lakers face the Nuggets, Suns, Warriors, Thunder and the Nuggets again.

Strange things happen at the end of the regular season with rest and potential tanking to secure a desired playoff spot, so we can’t rule out a late Lakers surge. But nothing we’ve seen from them this season indicates that they’re capable of beating some of the best teams in the league, even if they’re not at full strength, especially considering the lingering injury concerns for Davis and James and the amount of responsibility they’ll be burdened with as the postseason hangs in the balance.

“We have plenty of time to win as many games as we can down the stretch,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said after the game. “We’ll see what happens with San Antonio.”



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