Anthony Davis plays and Lakers overcome shaky start in big win over Hawks

By | March 19, 2024

Anthony Davis didn’t need 20/20 vision to see the Atlanta Hawks trying to get the Lakers’ attention.

“You don’t want my view!” Austin Reaves would later say.

After the Lakers turned the ball over on the first play of the game, Hawks forward Jaylen Johnson turned the ensuing fast break into a highlight reel, almost completely jumping over Reaves — the rare occasion when the story begins with an exclamation point before something is written.

The dunk, which was overshadowed for Reaves’ sake by Anthony Edwards during another game in Utah, got Atlanta off to an 11-2 start, providing a sudden wake-up call.

Read more: Shot-clock madness and an Anthony Davis injury plague the Lakers’ loss to Warriors

“I think this might be the first time I’ve really been immersed. So I went a long time without being very athletic, picking my spots to get out of the way. I was trying to take a charge,” Reaves said, grinning. “I don’t know, super athletic kid, and you know, he’s got one. The longer I play the game, I’m sure it will happen again. So don’t worry too much about it.

“It was just the whole sequence from the start and then that run. I’m sitting there, s—, that’s where it all started.”

But with Davis back in the lineup after suffering a scratched cornea on Saturday, the Lakers (37-32) quickly found their rhythm and made Johnson’s highlight standout in an otherwise all-Lakers game.

All five starters finished with at least 12 points, all had big moments and were able to spend most of the fourth quarter on the bench during a 136-105 victory over Atlanta on Monday night at Arena, ending a two -game slipping.

Lakers star LeBron James reacts after scoring on a fast-break layup against the Atlanta Hawks.Lakers star LeBron James reacts after scoring on a fast-break layup against the Atlanta Hawks.

“I’m happy for our guys,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “There was a lot of carryover on the defensive end. We talked about limiting offensive rebounds and doing better on the defensive glass. For most of the game, I thought we did a good job of that. And then the ball movement. To finish with 39 assists is huge. If we keep going like this, playing the right way, the guys are going to miss shots, but as long as we give them the opportunity to do that, and we make quick decisions, you’re going to have nights like this when you have six guys who end up reaching double figures. So I thought it was a great night. A great, useful night on both sides of the ball.”

The Hawks (30-38), who defeated the Clippers the night before, got 25 points from Johnson but never really challenged once the Lakers found their footing.

D’Angelo Russell scored 27 points and dished out 10 assists. His sixth three-pointer tied him with Nick Van Exel for the Lakers’ single-season record of 183 threes.

LeBron James and Davis both shot 10 for 14 from the field for 25 and 22 points, respectively. Rui Hachimura had 17 and Reaves found a highlight of his own, stealing an inbounds pass and finding James for a behind-the-back pass dunk without looking.

Lakers guard Austin Reaves makes a pass in the air for Atlanta Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter.Lakers guard Austin Reaves makes a pass in the air for Atlanta Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter.

Lakers guard Austin Reaves makes a pass in the air for Atlanta Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter in the first half. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Max Christie led the Lakers with 11 points off the bench.

For Davis, the game came after a scare on Saturday when he suffered a scratched cornea after being hit in the face by Golden State’s Trayce Jackson-Davis.

‘I just couldn’t see it. The corneal abrasion was actually right in the middle of my eye,” Davis said. “It wasn’t like I was moving out of the way. So every time I looked it was blurry. My eye was swollen. I thought my eye was open. But that wasn’t the case. It kept watering. It just felt like there was sand in my eye.

“So it was just closed up better and I couldn’t really see it. So I just froze it, like Saturday after the third quarter, and later that night it got better. The swelling went down. I just stayed in. It was dark. And then I went to the doctor on Sunday morning and some other things that we eventually figured out. But it was really hard for me to watch.”

He didn’t have to squint to see how his team looked against the Hawks.

Lakers star Anthony Davis dunks an offensive rebound for Atlanta Hawks guard Vit Krejci on Monday.Lakers star Anthony Davis dunks an offensive rebound for Atlanta Hawks guard Vit Krejci on Monday.

“I went to the ophthalmologist and I think it’s okay. I’m still 20/15, so I feel good about that,” he said.

Davis’ return came as the Lakers received bad news about the depth of their frontcourt.

Reserve big man Christian Wood, who has not played in the last 13 games, will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery and be out for several weeks, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who is not authorized to speak publicly.

Wood has been out due to swelling in his knee since the All-Star break. The team is expected to provide an official update on him soon. During Monday’s shooting, injured forward Jarred Vanderbilt did some shooting drills on the field while Ham and general manager Rob Pelinka looked on.

“He’s going according to plan,” Ham said before the match. “Gabe’s (Vincent) coming along as planned. We should get Cam (Reddish) back here pretty quickly. So now that we’re starting to get those guys back and what they bring to our basketball team, just the intangibles.

“People talk about making shots and of course you have to make stops, but those guys’ ability to get us extra possessions – whether it’s steals, deflections that turn into turnovers – their ability to get offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds is desperately needed. That will be a welcome addition to get those boys healthy again.’

The Lakers don’t play again until Friday, when they host the Philadelphia 76ers.

“We get the opportunity to tighten up some things offensively. Tightening up some things defensively,” Ham said. “There are some new wrinkles we want to put on both sides of the ball and we’ll get a chance to look at them. And then watch a movie and see how we can be the best version of ourselves. But just take it one day at a time, starting with the day off. Everyone gets on their feet. Hopefully we get to spend time with their families and get away from it all. But then, once we hit again on Wednesday, knowing we have to be better.

“No matter what happens in the league or around our team’s positioning, if we don’t once again try to be the best version of ourselves and take care of our own business, nothing else will matter.”

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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