The Los Angeles Lakers went into a stretch of five games against playoff opponents — all of whom had equal or better records than them — without LeBron James or Dennis Schroder for any of them. Behind Anthony Davis and some individual clutch performances by Wesley Matthews, Alex Caruso and others, they were able to go 3-2 in that span.
The peak of this stretch was a close, gritty win over the New York Knicks in a must-win game to keep pace with the Portland Trail Blazers in the standings. The Lakers trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter after keeping it close all game long. Then, they fought back, and Matthews grabbed a clutch rebound and nailed the putback layup in the final seconds to bring the game to overtime.
They would win in overtime thanks to Matthews and Davis playing phenomenal defense on Julius Randle and Derrick Rose, coupled with a game-winning 3-pointer by Talen Horton-Tucker.
Matthews gave some insight into his mindset on the game-tying play in the fourth quarter. “I’m gonna go get it,” he said.
“With the game on the line, there’s no point of me being back there behind the 3-point line. I’ll mix it up with anybody. First when I saw KCP shoot it in the corner, I was hoping it was gonna drop but then right place, right time, was able to make a play and keep us alive.”
When asked what has changed for the Lakers in their recent games, Matthews leaned on the intangibles. “Maybe the focus a little bit, attention to detail,” Matthews said. “The defensive side of the ball is starting to pick back up and it’s starting to fuel our offense. Obviously we’ve been down, undermanned at the point guard position so everybody’s been having to get involved and everybody’s been having to pull their weight on both ends of the court.
“We haven’t been comfortable by any means so we’re able to find comfort within an uncomfortable situation and on top of that, get big wins, quality wins against good teams. That’s a confidence builder so that when we get back to full strength, we know nothing but winning.”
With regard to the standings, Matthews kept things very general about the Lakers’ goals to finish out the regular season.
“We’re trying to win the game for ourselves. Whatever happens at the end of these next however many games is gonna happen. For us, it’s just about building habits, building a winning culture or continuing a winning culture and finding ways to win shorthanded, next man up, whatever you want to throw at us. It’s go time in these next couple days, next couple weeks as far as playoffs. So as far as catching anybody, we’re just worried about ourselves.”
While there could still be an incredible amount of movement within the Western Conference playoff picture over the next three games, it appears the Lakers are not worried about who they might play in the first round. Rather, they’re trying to win games and put themselves in the best position to contend for a championship.
Davis’ status unclear for Wednesday against Rockets
After one of the hardest-fought games of the season, Davis was clearly hobbled, leaving his status for the Lakers game against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday in jeopardy.
“Not sure about tomorrow. I’m going to get treatment and see how I feel. I want to see I’m going to play, but it was really bothering me tonight. But we’ll see how I feel tomorrow and later on in the day there’s a very strong possibility I’ll fight through it and play since the next day is an off day, but also don’t want to have this lagging and now I’m out for a couple days. We’ll see how I feel.”
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