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Anthony Davis excels in return, but Lakers playoff hopes on lifeline after crucial loss to Pelicans

The Los Angeles Lakers seemingly got what they needed for the regular season stretch run when both Anthony Davis and LeBron James took the floor for Friday’s crucial game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Needing a win to keep pace with the San Antonio Spurs for the final Western Conference qualifier, Davis played his first game since his foot injury in mid-February, while James returned from a missed two games with a sprained ankle.

Despite a productive game from both stars, the Lakers fell to the Pelicans, 114-111, making the path to the playoffs incredibly difficult in the final five games of the season. Davis looked great from the first tip, finishing with 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists on 8-for-17 shooting in 37 minutes — a healthy dose of game time for his first game back.

“I felt good”, Davis said after the game. “The last four minutes were really tough. … But until then I felt really good.”

Perhaps more importantly, given his injury history, Davis also suffered several hard falls throughout the game and was able to continue playing without any visible signs of discomfort. James scored 21 of his 38 points in the third quarter – the most he’s scored in any quarter this season – but scored just two in the final frame and kicked off a potential 3-point draw when the buzzer sounded, giving the Lakers another disappointing loss.

James and Davis combined to score six points on 2-for-9 shooting in the fourth quarter.

“It was pretty much a must win for us, and we didn’t get the job done,” James said after the game.

At 31-46, the Lakers now trail the San Antonio Spurs by one game with five remaining for each team. The Spurs, however, hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers, which would mean Los Angeles would need to finish two games better than San Antonio down the stretch in order to make the play-in. It doesn’t seem like a stretch, but a look at the schedule shows you just how tough it will be for the Lakers.

Spurs face the Blazers, Nuggets, Wolves, Warriors and Mavericks to end the season. The Lakers again face the Nuggets, Suns, Warriors, Thunder and Nuggets.

Strange things happen at the end of the regular season with rest and potential tanking to secure a desired playoff spot, so we can’t rule out a late push from the Lakers. But nothing we’ve seen from them this season indicates that they’re capable of beating some of the league’s top teams, even if they’re not full, especially given the ongoing injury problems for Davis and James and amount. responsibility they will be burdened with as the playoffs hang in the balance.

“We have plenty of time to win as many games as possible,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said after the game. “We’ll see what happens with San Antonio.”

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