Every person sitting on the Lakers bench stood up and gathered around Anthony Davis. Players and coaches had concerned expressions as trainers worked on Davis, who clutched his lower back.
It was late in the third quarter and he’d taken a fall after being called for a foul. Even after the horn signaling the end of the timeout rang, the crowd remained affixed to his spot under the basket.
“Fingers crossed,” Lakers Coach Frank Vogel said of what went through his mind in those moments. “Hope for the best, pray for the best. Hopefully he gets up and it’s not too bad.”
Eventually, Davis rose with the help of LeBron James. He walked gingerly to the locker room. Davis later had x-rays which came back negative, but he was sore because of a sacral contusion, which is a bruise to the bone right above one’s tailbone.
It was a tense moment during a game that went smoothly for the Lakers otherwise.
When last the Lakers and Knicks met, they were dysfunctional franchises in the country’s two biggest markets. The Lakers righted their ship over the summer, the Knicks did not. That showed Tuesday night at Staples Center when the Lakers (30-7) beat the Knicks (10-27) 117-87 in a game in which they did not trail after the first quarter.
James scored 31 points, making 9-of-19 shots including 6-of-12 threes. It was just the eighth game in his career that James has attempted at least 12 threes, and four of those games have come against the Knicks.
Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope joined James in scoring in double figures.
Davis only scored five points, but had six rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks. A game after the Lakers had 20 blocks against the Detroit Pistons, they combined for 11 blocks.
There was some doubt as to whether James would play at all. He had been feeling ill during the day and left shootaround early to get some rest. When he arrived at Staples Center around 5:45 p.m., James walked in carrying a bag of peeled oranges and coughing occasionally. But after meeting with team doctors, James decided to play.
“All day he was feeling really lousy,” Vogel said. “But he wanted to tough it out. Credit to him for playing through something like that … He was outstanding tonight.”
The Lakers also were unsure about Bradley, who seemed to suffer an ankle sprain Sunday against the Pistons. Overnight, Bradley experienced minimal swelling and felt healthy enough Tuesday to play.
Although the Lakers did not have the kind of fast-paced start they did against the Suns and Pelicans last week, they didn’t really need it. They led by five points after one quarter despite making only 30% of their shots in the early part of the quarter, and turning the ball over five times.
The second quarter gave them an opportunity to extend their lead. Then the Lakers made 68.4% of their shots and, despite committing six turnovers and outscored the Knicks by 12.
The first half also saw one ejection. Bobby Portis was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul after swiping at Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s head. Caldwell-Pope underwent concussion testing and was cleared to return to the game. He finished with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
After the game, Davis was in the locker room to greet his teammates. He laughed and joked with them and told them he’d let them know how he was doing as soon as he could.
“He’s a tough dude,” Lakers guard Quinn Cook said.
Davis then left the arena on the back of a cart. He got off it on his own power and into the back seat of a car. His night would later include an MRI.