Monday, February 6

Despite another loss, Anthony Davis says Lakers believe they can earn a play-in bid

The Lakers stand at the precipice of their disappointing season.

They have five games left to right all the wrongs they have yet to correct in 77 regular-season games.

A spot in the play-in tournament is all they have to play for now, and even getting from the 11th seed they currently occupy to the 10th seed they need to extend their season will take a lot of work.

“Well, until it says we’re eliminated, it doesn’t. Until that moment, we’ll know what our destiny is, but right now, we don’t,” LeBron James said late Friday night after his 38 points and eight rebounds in 39 1/2 minutes still couldn’t stop the Lakers from losing their fifth straight game and dropping further down the Western Conference standings. “So, keep pushing forward.”

The Lakers are one game behind the Spurs for the final play-in spot in the West, and San Antonio owns the tiebreaker.

After losing to the Pelicans 114-111 Friday night at Arena, the Lakers are three games behind New Orleans, which swept Los Angeles this season 3-0.

Anthony Davis, who returned Friday after recovering from his latest injury, said, “I think there is a lot of belief” in the team being able to win them all.

“We know what we’re playing for,” Davis said. “We know the position that we’re in. We know we’re playing against some top teams. So, I think we have to believe. I don’t think it’s hope. We don’t play off hope and ‘let’s hope we win this game.’ We have belief and I believe. I know … everyone in that locker room believes. We’ve got to go out and get it done. It’s that simple. We have to win these games and we have to have that approach.”

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The Lakers and Spurs have five games remaining, and both teams have tough schedules.

The Lakers host the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, then play at Phoenix (Tuesday) and Golden State (Thursday). They host Oklahoma City April 8 and close the regular season April 10 at Denver.

The Spurs host the Portland Trail Blazers, then play at Denver and Minnesota before returning home to host Golden State and finish at Dallas.

“I don’t look at San Antonio at all,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I mean, obviously, finding out what their scores look like. But our focus is going to be on what we can control and that’s winning the next game. … The next game’s in front of us. The recovery starts now. We’re playing essentially three games in three nights with a 12:30 start. That’s such a quick turnaround it’s ridiculous, so mental and physical recovery starts now. And as a coaching staff, you turn your attention to whatever you’ve got to do for Denver.”

The next game is against the Nuggets at Arena on Sunday, and the Lakers may not be at full strength.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis guards Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) defends against Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas in Los Angeles on Friday.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

James returned to play after missing the previous two games with a left ankle sprain.

“Well, for me personally, it’s to get started working on this ankle obviously,” James said. “It’s pretty sore right now. So early start on Sunday. Hopefully it reacts the proper way for me in the morning when I wake up and I have no setbacks. So, for me, that’s the most important thing. Us as a team, it’s a tough loss for us. So, we get an opportunity tomorrow to kind of decompress and have the day off, then get back at it.”

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Davis had missed 18 straight games due to a right mid-foot sprain.

“I felt good,” Davis said. “Last four minutes was definitely a struggle. … Been a little sore. To that point, I felt really good. We know the situation that we’re in. Even though soreness in the foot, soreness in LB’s ankle, we felt like this was a game we had to play and obviously the next five games as well.”

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