LeBron James, Anthony Davis assess Lakers’ place in playoff race heading into critical road trip

After putting up 150 points on the Pacers, the Lakers (39-32) head into a critical six-game road trip with some momentum.

The Lakers have won three games in a row — two offensive explosions (vs. the Atlanta Hawks and the Pacers) sandwiched around a defensive rock fight with the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday

On Sunday, the Lakers reveled in the high-octane experience of playing the Pacers, who rank first in points per game (123.1) and second-to-worst in points allowed (121). The Lakers scored 86 points across the second and third quarters, enabling them to get away with surrendering 46 points — and nearly a 17-point lead — in the final period, and 145 points overall.

“You gotta have that diversity,” said Ham about the two contrasting wins. “There was times in this game we had to slow it down, times we sped it up … We pride ourselves on being able to do both.

“There’s different ways you’re gonna have to win games. There’s gonna be those knock-down, drag-outs, and it’s gonna be a Ferrari versus a Lamborghini on a highway sometimes. Drag race.”

Anthony Davis (15-of-21 shooting) displayed three-level scoring chops on his way to 36 points and 16 rebounds. LeBron chessboxed to 26 points and 10 assists. Austin Reaves had 25 points and eight dimes.

When asked if he ever stops to think about the NBA’s scoring evolution, LeBron — who’s dominated through multiple paradigm shifts — said he’d only “stop” because of how “exhausted” he feels after running and gunning with Indiana.

“Our league is so great offensively. You got so many guys that can play three levels. You’re looking at Myles Turner, you’re looking at AD. … Our league has so many great players that can do multiple things. With the game with so much space and so much shooting, they’re going to be some higher scoring games.”

To make matters better for the Lakers, Spencer Dinwiddie is starting to find his form. Dinwiddie followed up his 11-point outing vs. Philly — which had been his most since joining the Lakers — with a vintage 26-point outburst on Indy. Starting in place of D’Angelo Russell (illness), Dinwiddie was in attack mode from the get-go. He shot 8-of-11 from the field, and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line, to go along with five assists.

“I don’t doubt my ability to go out there and get a basket,” said Dinwiddie, who averaged 4.6 points over his first 15 games for his hometown squad. “I was a top-five iso player in the league for six years in a row. That’s what I do.”

“How he played tonight, we’re gonna need him to play like that the rest of the season,” said Davis.

 

Lakers offense is looking ‘sharp’

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) shoots the ball against Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) in the second half at Crypto.com Arena.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers saw four players drop at least 25 points. They shot 56.2% from the field, 12-of-25 (48%) from 3, and 38-of-43 (!) from the line. Taurean Prince added 14 off the bench.

“Offensively we were very sharp,” said LeBron.

With 11 games to play, the Lakers (39-32) are seven games over .500 for the first time since 2021. They start the week 2.5 games ahead of the reeling Golden State Warriors (36-24) and 2.5 games behind the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings (41-28). The Phoenix Suns (42-29) occupy the coveted sixth seed.

“It’s been flip-flopping so much the last couple weeks, I kinda stopped looking at it,” LeBron said about the standings. “We know where we are right now, but we want to just continue to try to play some good basketball. It’s a very testy road trip for us. Very rare. I can’t remember where I’ve had such a late East Coast road trip, or vice versa … So that’s challenging. But we look forward to it.”

“We try to look at figure out how far we are behind the sixth seed, but you stretch yourself out, put too much pressure on yourself when you’re constantly looking at it,” said AD. “I think we’re ninth right now, so we just gotta continue to play our style of basketball and focus on us.”

“It’s the road. Gonna be tough. We got the capability of winning each game.”

After a visit to face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, the rest of the road trip consists of favorable matchups: the Memphis Grizzlies, Pacers, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, and Washington Wizards. The Lakers are 27-12 at home this season. They’re 12-20 on the road.

Davis offered an ideal number of wins for the trip: “Six.”