1. “We’re back.”
Anthony Davis pounded his chest and said those two words after the Lakers snapped a three-game losing streak (and six losses in seven games) that had left them as lethargic as Superman with a kryptonite cape.
Over the weekend, Davis had diagnosed the Lakers’ shortcomings.
“We all just got to find our swag. We’re not playing with any swag,” he said. “I don’t think guys are having fun. Obviously it’s no fun when you’re losing, but at the end of the day, we’re the champs, man. Like, we are the champs. We’re the defending champs. So we got to play that way.”
Even though they were predictably sloppy on offense, the Lakers’ defensive pressure and attitude won them the game — a big win considering the team is trying not to fall below sixth place in the West.
“Tonight we played Laker basketball,” Davis said, “We were running. We were helping each other. We were talking. We were sharing the basketball. We did everything that Laker basketball consists of. So when we continue to do this then we can start adding more wins than losses in our record.”
Davis had his best game since returning from his leg injuries, scoring 25 to go with seven rebounds and three blocks.
2. OK, they’re not really back.
Coach Frank Vogel confirmed that Dennis Schroder would miss the next 10-14 days in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, and LeBron James, of course, is still dealing with a sore ankle.
With neither player available Monday, the Lakers turned the ball over 20 times, the Lakers only scoring 93 points, in part, because of those squandered possessions.
It’s not sustainable. The Lakers are just the eighth team this season to score 93 or fewer points and somehow win.
But Monday, it was good enough.
3. The difference maker
Vogel said the plan was to play Marc Gasol against Denver’s Nikola Jokic, but foul trouble to Andre Drummond accelerated that plan.
With Drummond having an off night — he had zero rebounds for the first time since his rookie year — Gasol was fantastic with 10 points and seven rebounds. Most importantly, with Gasol on the court, the Lakers were 17 points better than Denver.
It was just his fifth appearance in the Lakers’ last 14 games.
“Of course he could be mad that he’s not playing or anything like that or he’s not getting the minutes that he wants. But ultimately, we’re trying to win. Somebody has to sacrifice,” Talen Horton-Tucker said. “No matter who it is, I feel like we all know that. So I feel like it’s great to have Marc too. Without him, tonight would’ve been a little different.”
4. New closer
Vogel used Horton-Tucker at the end of the game with the Lakers offense in desperate need of someone who could create. (At one point in the fourth, offensive possessions were so rocky that one ended with Alex Caruso trying a two-handed heave while laying on the court).
Horton-Tucker rewarded the trust, getting his own rebound after a wild shot and making a reverse layup, just beating the shot clock and icing the win.
“I feel like the shot I took, I pretty much kinda ran out of options,” Horton-Tucker said. “I just tried to get something on the backboard. I just felt like it was instinct almost. Just being able to be in that position was just crazy, my first time really being in at the end of the game. I look at everything as a learning experience, and that’s going to be another one for me.”
5. One last shot
Davis said he received his COVID-19 vaccine, and not just because the NBA has tried to incentivize players to do so.
“I don’t think the NBA kind of forced anyone to do it,” he said. “You can’t force anyone to get vaccinated. I think it was highly encouraged. And some guys did and some guys didn’t for their own personal reasons. I decided to for my own personal reasons.
“I don’t think the league is forcing anyone to do so. There are different rules when you are fully vaccinated than when you’re not. That wasn’t a factor for me. I mean, it might be a factor for some other guys. But the rules do change a little bit when you are fully vaccinated. So I’m not sure, I think we got a lot of guys on this team who have been vaccinated, I think, if I’m not mistaken.
“We’re all just trying to play our part, man. Honestly, I’m trying to play my part and get 20,000 back in Staples so we can get some more cheers in there than we have now.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.