LeBron James sent the message to the Lakers from Salt Lake City.
There will be no more wasted time, no more excuses and no more waiting.
On Sunday, James said he was about to embark on 23 of the most important regular-season games of his career — a streak that would determine whether the Lakers make or exit the playoffs for the second year in a row. .
Full speed ahead from now on – and if this was the first step, it was a good start.
With James struggling and the Golden State Warriors defense locked on Anthony Davis, the Lakers’ depth and defense was more than enough, with the Lakers picking up a 124-111 victory off the break.
“Overall a great team win,” said coach Darvin Ham.
The Lakers led by no less than 28 — the ninth time they’ve led by 20 in a game this season. More importantly, it’s the second straight game the Lakers have led by 20 – another dominating performance against a playoff contender after the team blew up New Orleans last week.
“We’re still figuring it out,” Davis said. “…But it looks really good. We play well, we click and we know we don’t have much time.
The Lakers push comes as the team’s urgency is declared high — a group of playoff contenders all trying to burst in with the Lakers at the back.
Everyone in the West except for Denver and Memphis up and Houston and San Antonio down below has no clear idea what the playoff future looks like. Thursday, six games separated the Kings, third, from the Lakers, 13th.
“I think it’s a sprint to the finish line,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said before the game. “I know that given LeBron’s career and everything he’s accomplished, that might sound like hyperbole, but we all feel a sense of urgency at this point. We only have a few games ahead of them. We’re all in this precarious position where we could be play-in, we could sneak in the six [seed]we could fall completely.
On Thursday, the Lakers did without any of their stars dominating offensively, with James shooting just five of 20 from the field for 13 points and Davis scoring just 12 of five shots.
It was James’ weakest game since Nov. 11, 2021 — a game where he was ejected and the fewest shot attempts for Davis this season — minus the game in Cleveland where he left early with an illness.
It’s also the second game in a row where James has played a season-high in minutes.
Malik Beasley scored 25 and five bench players scored at least 10, led by Austin Reaves – who went six out of six from the field to score 17.
“It could be any guy,” Beasley said.
The Lakers entered the post-All-Star season streak with a sort of stability they hadn’t seen in more than a season, their team with a clearly established starting five with identity, balance and controversy. minimum.
“Good to see that,” James said during filming Thursday morning. “Right now we’re feeling pretty good and the guys can’t wait to get out there and see what momentum we can build with this formation.”
It lasted nine minutes.
The Lakers’ rotten injury bug resurfaced late in the first quarter, with newly acquired point guard D’Angelo Russell spraining his right ankle in perhaps the most unlucky way possible – while throwing a pass into the boundaries.
After a basket made by the Warriors, Russell took the ball and rolled back past the baseline. He didn’t see Donte DiVincenzo standing behind him, and Russell stepped on his foot, rolling his right ankle.
The Lakers ruled him out and Dennis Schroder started the second half. X-rays were negative and Russell will be re-evaluated in the morning.
Russell said his ankle was a little sore, but he hoped after treatment he would feel better in the morning.
“Wrong place”, he said, “wrong time”.
The Warriors were without Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins.
The win showcased the Lakers’ all-new roster composition after the team traded Russell Westbrook at the deadline – a move that traded one player for three new pieces in the starting lineup.
On Thursday, it was Beasley’s hot shot – he quickly scored eight points before anyone really broke a sweat – that set the tone.
“Just a sniper, who stays aggressive all the time,” Ham said.
The team now heads to three games starting Sunday in Dallas – the first of its final three trips of the season.
“Guys know what’s at hand,” Ham said. They know we have no more time or games to lose.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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