Eighteen seconds after winning the jump ball for the Lakers on Tuesday night in Brooklyn and now playing in his first game since suffering a sprained right knee ligament on Dec. 17, Anthony Davis ran up court and threw down a lob pass from LeBron James for a dunk.
It was the first time Davis had scored a basket since that fateful night in Minnesota that sidelined him for 17 games over five weeks.
What Davis learned was that his rehabilitation process was right on course and that his body was ready despite not being able to get any five-on-five practice sessions.
“I think for the most part it was just trying to get the pain to go away,” Davis said. “I think the first week-and-a-half I was able to do single-leg squats, two-leg squats. I was able to run a little bit. So, I was moving ahead of pace and then met with the doctors, I think after the four-week period. I was able to get out of the brace. Walk around without it. Kind of go on court and work out without it. And then it was just about feel for me, if I was comfortable enough to go out there and play.”
The moment of truth arrived for Davis by playing two-on-two in Miami on Sunday with Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington and DeAndre Jordan.
Davis said he “felt very comfortable to play” after that workout.
“That’s kind of been what it was… But it was a great rehab,” Davis said. “I was able to get my body fully right and now we move forward.”
Four takeaways from the Lakers’ 106-96 win over Brooklyn:
1. Anthony Davis makes a difference
Davis wasn’t an offensive force, scoring just eight points on three-for-eight shooting, but he was a factor on defense with four blocked shots.
“Yeah, I would say the first play, he looked in rhythm there,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said about Davis. “But there were several defensive possessions where he got blocks that he looked like he was moving well. We were cautious to make sure we didn’t keep his runs too long, like he typically has. We’ll build up to that… For the most part, he looked really good, and those little finishes will come.”
Davis played just 25 minutes.
He yearns to play more.
“I don’t know about the whole minute restriction thing,” he said. “I think for me that might come off. Might tell him [Vogel] I don’t need that, but we’ll see. We have a back-to-back coming and want to play that smart. But for the most part I felt fine, felt great out there and the first couple minutes the adrenaline took and after that away the wind caught up to me.”
2. LeBron James goes Ed Reed on Nets
Midway through the fourth quarter, James came up with two big-time steals that sealed the game.
In his eyes, James said he was “channeling my inner-Ed Reed,” the former All-Pro safety with the Baltimore Ravens.
James stole a pass from James Harden in the fourth and then rambled downcourt for a dunk.
On Brooklyn’s very next possession, James stole a pass from James Johnson and broke upcourt for another dunk.
He had two of his three steals on back-to-back possessions, adding that to his ledger of 33 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
“Playing the passing lanes and seeing the direction of the ball but just trying to be in the right place to protect my teammates while we were in coverage and doing some of the things we were doing defensively,” James said. “So, I was able to pick-six two of them in a row.”
3. Plenty of support
Malik Monk had another stellar night for the Lakers off the bench.
He scored 22 points, going seven for 13 from the field and six for 12 from three-point range. He also had five rebounds, two assists and was a plus-14 in the plus-minus department.
4. The big little things
Austin Reaves scored just two points, but his presence was felt all over the court.
He had five rebounds, six assists that tied James for a team high, one steal, one block and was a plus-13.
Turner reported from Los Angeles.