LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis had 37 points and 14 rebounds, Dennis Schröder added 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and the Los Angeles Lakers got a vital victory for their playoff hopes, 116-111 over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.
Lonnie Walker scored 20 points in an impressive return to the rotation for the Lakers, who won their third straight to move even with Minnesota in seventh place in the Western Conference standings despite the injury absences of LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell.
“It was a must-win game for us,” said Davis, who made 15 of his 21 shots. “We had to come out and get this game, and we came out offensive and defensively just playing extremely well. … We’ve got to .500, and now it’s time to get on the other side.”
With Davis leading the way on both ends of the court, Los Angeles (37-37) reached .500 for the first time this year. The Lakers started the season 2-10, but they’re 12-6 since the trade deadline with a rapidly cohering roster and the looming return of the NBA’s career scoring leader.
“This team is locked in and connected,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “The vibe and the spirit have been great. Guys are really trying to figure out how we can be better. That’s what you want. … Guys are competing because they know what they’re representing. They know the history of the franchise they’re representing.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey scored 27 points apiece for Oklahoma City, which lost for only the fourth time in 12 games down the stretch. The Thunder (36-38) dropped into a tie with Dallas for 10th in the West despite holding the Lakers to only 42 points in the second half after LA put up 41 in the first quarter alone.
PHOTOS: Anthony Davis scores 37, Lakers hold off Thunder 116-111
“That’s a testament to our ability to scrap and hang in there,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. “That’s how you want teams to score against you. All the things they got down the stretch are things we’re willing to live with. It’s hard to slow that down.”
Russell sat out with a sore right hip, joining James on the sideline at an important game for the Lakers‘ playoff hopes. Los Angeles still improved to 8-5 during James’ latest injury absence.
Oklahoma City erased all of Los Angeles’ early 17-point lead when Gilgeous-Alexander’s jumper tied it at 102-102 with 5:25 to play. Davis responded with three points, and Walker hit a tiebreaking shot with 3:50 left.
Schröder replaced Russell in the starting lineup and had another standout game, including six points in the final 3:18 while the Lakers hung on. Walker got his most significant playing time since early March in Russell’s absence, and the former starter responded with four 3-pointers.
“I’ve just been in the gym, being positive and focused on what we’re trying to accomplish,” Walker said. “I love these guys, and I’m fortunate to play with them.”
Ham said Russell’s hip injury was “not too serious, but serious enough where we need to manage it.”
Gilgeous-Alexander played despite the Thunder being on the back end of consecutive games. The Thunder have been resting him in the second game of recent back-to-backs.
Thunder: Aleksej Pokuševski dressed for the first time since breaking his left leg in December. The Serbian big man didn’t play, but he has been playing in the G League. … Luguentz Dort scored 15 points.
Lakers: Used their 37th starting lineup in 74 games this season. … Walker played 24 minutes in his first action since March 15. He started 32 games this season.
Thunder: At Portland on Sunday.
Lakers: Host Chicago on Sunday.
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