When the Los Angeles Lakers went into the halftime break against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, they knew Anthony Davis had suffered some type of foot injury, but had been playing through it. In their evaluation, they determined Davis could not return to the game, vaulting Thomas Bryant to the starting center role.
At that point, Bryant had just five points on 2-for-2 from the field but had struggled defensively like the rest of his Lakers teammates. But Bryant put together his best half of the 2022 season, and perhaps one of the best halves of his career to help the Lakers pull away from the Nuggets.
Bryant finished with 21 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes of action in an 18-point Lakers victory. He went 9-of-11 from the field, including 7-of-9 in the second half, dominating the interior with the help of Russell Westbrook and LeBron James.
The Lakers center spoke about his game plan when he finally realized it would be him instead of Davis in the lineup.
“At first, I didn’t even know Anthony [Davis] went down,” Bryant said. “But when they told me that he went down and I was gonna be in the starting lineup, my mindset was to just bring energy, bring what I can for this team and hopefully it works out for this team and it did.”
It was Bryant’s first time scoring 20 points in a game since Jan. 3, 2021, just a few games before suffering a torn ACL. “It felt great,” Bryant said of reaching that scoring milestone. “It felt great to be out there just contributing as much as I can with my teammates out there. Luckily I was able to contribute on the offensive end so I’m happy about that.”
It’s unclear how much time — if any — Davis plans to miss. But if Bryant can continue to play the way he did against the Nuggets, the Lakers may be able to weather the storm. The Lakers play just one game against a top-tier center over their next six games.
Outside of Deandre Ayton’s Phoenix Suns, they face the Washington Wizards, Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic between now and Dec. 27.
Russell Westbrook looking to make others better
Bryant’s standout performance was in part made possible due to the efforts of Westbrook in the second half. After a first half that saw him struggle to make reads and hit shots, he came out with a new energy after halftime and helped will the Lakers to victory.
He spoke after the game, saying that his goal with the Lakers is to make the person next to him better, and he succeeded in that realm with Bryant on Friday.
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