The Los Angeles Lakers celebrated Anthony Davis’ return from injury with a decisive 106-96 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
Davis came back 37 days after spraining the MCL in his left knee. The Lakers went 7-10 during that stretch, dipping below the .500 mark again.
But they improved to 24-24 thanks to a flashy performance from LeBron James and Malik Monk at Barclays Arena, who led L.A. to a victory with 33 and 22 points, respectively.
James Harden did his best to foil the Lakers’ plans, putting up a triple-double with 33 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. But Brooklyn lacked firepower amid Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s absence, scoring less than 100 points for the first time in 2022.
James immediately sought to get Davis going in his first minutes on the court since Dec. 17, setting the forward up for a one-hand alley-oop dunk to put the Lakers on the board.
The 28-year-old All-Star looked sharp despite the lengthy break, as he followed with a smooth mid-range jump shot and two quick blocks on James Harden.
Davis’ second rejection sent Westbrook downhill for a finger-roll layup in transition, making it 12-12.
Despite a strong effort from Avery Bradley on the defensive end — which included two early steals — the Lakers couldn’t find a way to stop Harden. The 32-year-old guard scored or assisted all of the Nets’ first nine field goals.
But besides him, Brooklyn didn’t pose much threat on the offensive end — and struggled to get stops on the other side of the court.
After Carmelo Anthony and Malik Monk hit late triples, James struck in transition with a buzzer-beater layup, giving L.A. a 33-25 lead.
Following a sloppy start in the second, Monk and Anthony hit another couple of quick 3s to put the Purple and Gold’s 13 points ahead.
The Nets managed to bring the game back within single digits after Harden came back on the court three minutes in. But Monk got red-hot from downtown, keeping the Lakers ahead with 16 first-half points, going 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.
James ended up with 15, scoring with ease off drives into the paint. Unlike in previous weeks, the Lakers dealt a lot of damage in transition thanks to their well-functioning defense, which allowed Brooklyn to shoot only 40.7% from the field.
All in all, L.A. headed to the locker room with 62-53 lead at halftime.
Davis quickly fell into foul trouble after the break, returning to the bench at 7:43 with four personal fouls. Shortly after, Bradley fouled Harden on a 3-point attempt and chalked up a technical foul for bemoaning the call.
That allowed the Nets’ star to score eight points in less than a minute, making it 71-69.
But the setback only motivated James and Westbrook to double down on attacking the paint, sparking a 15-7 charge to bring the lead back to double-digits.
Late triples from, unsurprisingly, Monk and Anthony gave L.A. a 92-78 lead before the final quarter began.
The Nets failed to capitalize on the Lakers’ 0-8 start in the fourth. Then, James fired the Purple and Gold 15 points ahead with back-to-back dunks off his own steals — putting the game to bed.
Upon his return, Davis recorded a solid eight points, two rebounds, two assists, and four blocks.
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