You know things have reached an important point of the season when players start to describe games as must-wins.
That’s apparently where the Los Angeles Lakers are at after losing back-to-back games on the road against the Dallas Mavericks over the weekend.
The Lakers are 0-2 since Anthony Davis returned to the starting lineup after a 30-game absence, prompting the 27-year-old big man to call his team’s final two games on a four-game road trip at Orlando on Monday and Washington D.C. Wednesday as must wins.
“We’ve got to keep fighting,” Davis said. “I think we’ve got like 12 games before the playoffs, so these last 12 are going to be crucial for us, so we’ve got to be able to get some wins. This was a tough one for us (Dallas loss). Orlando and D.C. are must-wins for us, for sure.”
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel liked the leadership that Davis displayed by making the statement.
"It's good for your leaders to raise the bar, and set a high standard for what we're trying to get accomplished," Vogel said. "Nobody in our group is happy with how the two games in Dallas went. And we're looking to respond, and get a 'W' tonight."
In his second game back from a right calf strain that kept him out for 30 straight games, Davis looked more like his old self, finishing with 17 points, three rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes in a 108-93 loss the Mavericks over the weekend.
However, Davis shot just 5-for-19 from the field.
“It’s my job to continue to shoot the ball, continue to try and make plays for myself and others,” Davis said. “So, I’ve got to be ready to do that in games, with very limited practice time.”
Davis went on to say he’s getting to the spots he wants to on the floor, but everything is short as he works to get his legs back into basketball shape.
“I’m just trying to find a connection again with these guys, and they’re trying to find a connection with me,” Davis said. “It’s like we’re starting from zero, which is tough when it’s so late in the season. But it’s something we have to figure out.”
Added Vogel: “He’s got to use these games to play his way into shape. I thought he played well. He didn’t shoot well, but that’s going to come. It’s to be expected to have a little bit of rust in your first few games back. This is just the situation we’re in right now.”
Vogel said that Davis came through the second game fine and he will not be on a minutes restriction, but the Lakers will responsible with his minutes played.
At 35-25 overall and No. 5 in the Western Conference, the Lakers are just three games ahead of No. 7 seed the Portland Trailblazers. So, the Lakers have some work to do over the next 12 games to avoid the play-in game to the postseason.
“We’re going to have to find ways to win," Davis said. "It might not be pretty every time, but we’re still a great defensive team. And we’re going to have to lay our hats on that until we find our rhythm offensively.”