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‘Healthy and getting reps’: Despite loss, Lakers build chemistry

LeBron James and Anthony Davis finally strolled to the bench with 27.1 seconds left and the Lakers down eight points in a game they were once down by 20 with 4:25 remaining.

The other three starters, D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves and Jarred Vanderbilt, played until the final horn.

James saw this as a benefit, playing deep into a game against the Clippers that the Lakers were not going to win Wednesday on the second night of back-to-back games.

They are still trying to build some chemistry, and James said having played 10:54 in the fourth quarter alongside Davis with 6:47, Russell with 10:15, Reaves with 8:40 and Vanderbilt with 7:14, will help them develop a stronger bond going forward.

“Yeah, that definitely helps because we can capture it on film and we can watch it and see some of the things we did well and some of the things we didn’t do so well,” James said after the 125-118 loss. “At this point of the season, we don’t have the ability to actually get on the floor and play five-on-five. That’s literally out of the question at this point. The only time you can really do that is if you get into the postseason and you close a series out fast and you have a while until you play the next series. Then you can get a little bump. Other than that, you get most of your work in the film sessions and shoot-arounds and things of that nature.”

James was at his best in the second half, scoring 30 of his 33 points. It marked the second time this season he has scored 30 points in a half, having done it on Jan. 16 against the Houston Rockets.

The game against the Clippers also held significance for the Lakers because they had a chance to move up to fifth place in the Western Conference standings.

As it turned out, the Lakers remained in the seventh spot in the West with two home games left, Friday night against Phoenix and Sunday afternoon against Utah.

How important was Wednesday night’s game on the heels of an overtime win in Utah? James played in his first back-to-back games since Jan. 15-16 and Davis in his first since Nov. 6-7.

James has been dealing with right foot soreness that he decided was fine enough to play about an hour before the game against the Clippers. Davis has been dealing with a right foot stress injury that he felt was well enough to play on because this game meant so much.

“Yeah, I probably had it in my mind that I was going to play regardless, just because of the game,” said Davis, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds. “But I think we gained more chemistry. Even though it’s not the result we wanted, we was able to get a healthy squad. … Getting all our guys back and healthy and getting reps out on the floor for these last two games and then leading into the playoffs.”

Russell back on the court

Russell had missed the game at the Jazz on Tuesday night and didn’t play in the second half against the Rockets on Sunday night because of left foot soreness.

But he played 39:39 against the Clippers, finishing with 15 points on six-for-13 shooting and seven assists.

“Just trying to get right,” Russell said. “Playing at 50% isn’t helping the team. Whenever I’m more than that, I’m ready to play.”

Russell said he was “pain-free” after the game.

He has been dealing with this foot issue for a while.

“Yeah, definitely something to manage,” he said. “Just wear and tear. A long season.”

Lakers looking at play-in game

The Lakers are currently looking at playing in the NBA’s play-in tournament as the seventh seed in the West. Things could change with two games left.

The Lakers are not giving up on making the top six, which would give them an automatic spot in the first round of the playoffs, but the seventh spot is where they now reside.

“Ah, I mean, listen, it is what it is,” James said. “Wherever we end up, that’s where we end up. It’s been like four or five seasons in one for us. We don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘This is what we need to do. This is where we’re gonna be.’

“We need to still continue to play good basketball. We got another game on Friday versus a very good team. Then we end the season on Sunday versus Utah. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see. Wherever we fall, we’ll be ready to go.”

This story originally appeared on LA Times

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