Anthony Davis is expected to return after a scheduled rest, but LeBron James remains questionable, putting him in danger of missing his third straight game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, one of his favorite NBA arenas.
James hasn’t played against the Knicks at The Mecca since scoring 21 points in a 100-92 Lakers win on Jan. 22, 2020.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said before their 121-104 loss to Brooklyn Nets Monday night that James has experienced “really significant soreness” to his left foot and will be re-evaluated Tuesday morning.
The Knicks have won their last two meetings at the Garden without James. If he isn’t available, Davis will have to carry the Lakers in a marquee showdown against his former New Orleans Pelicans teammate and fellow Kentucky product Julius Randle.
Davis skipped the Brooklyn game in what Ham said was a planned rest after returning from a foot injury. But Ham liked the fight he saw from the rest of the Lakers at the start of the second half, where they battled back from a 19-point first-half deficit and took a seven-point lead, 82-75, before fading in the fourth quarter.
“[I] Just told them bottle up what we did in that third quarter, and let’s make the first step in the right direction [Tuesday],” Ham said of his locker room message to the Lakers following the loss that dropped them to 23-28, 1.5 games behind the last play-in spot in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got to fill our cups back up, prepare for a really really good New York Knicks ball club,” Ham added. “Just come out ready to play the right way and sustain it for as much of the 48 minutes as possible. That’s pretty much it, nobody’s going to feel sorry for us.”
“We still have the potential to make this a very good trip. There are three winnable games [left]. It starts with us. We’ve got to make it up in our minds that we want to play the right way for long periods of time.”
The Knicks looked ‘really, really good,’ as Ham described them, in quality wins against Cleveland and Boston. But they followed that up with a disappointing 122-115 loss in Brooklyn last Saturday, where they gave up 22 three-pointers, a season-high for the Nets.
“I thought offensively, we’re fine, but we got in a hole early, and we didn’t cover the [3-point] line as well as we could have or should have,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.
“I don’t know if we weren’t quite ready, and there were a lot of moving parts to this game because we didn’t know exactly who was in and out, so we knew the personnel would change, it would change who was on the floor with different groupings,” Thibodeau added.
Ben Simmons was a late scratch in that game. T.J. Warren also joined him in the sideline along with Kevin Durant.
The same scenario is in the offing with the Lakers keeping James’ playing status a mystery heading into the 7:30 p.m. tip-off.
The 27-24 Knicks are one game outside the top six in the Eastern Conference, trailing the 28-23 Miami Heat for the last outright playoff berth.
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