The Los Angeles Lakers entered Tuesday night's matchup with the Denver Nuggets in sixth place in the Western Conference and riding a three-game losing streak. With LeBron James out of the lineup due to a sore ankle, there was a real chance they would end the night in seventh place in the Western Conference.
Instead, Anthony Davis played one of his best games since returning from injury and came up with a clutch block in the closing seconds to secure a hard-fought 93-89 win. Now 37-28 on the season, the Lakers have climbed into fifth place as they jockey with the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers in the crowded standings.
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After missing over a month with a calf strain, Davis rejoined the Lakers lineup in late April, but has looked sluggish and out of rhythm. In six games prior to Tuesday night's contest, Davis was averaging just 16.5 points and 6.7 rebounds on 39.4 percent shooting, and the Lakers were 1-5.
He looked much better against the Nuggets, however, and his resurgence couldn't have come at a better time. With the Lakers reeling and LeBron hurt again, this was exactly the time for Davis to step up. He finished with 25 points and seven rebounds, and came up with some key plays down the stretch.
A fourth quarter surge by the Nuggets cut the Lakers' lead to just two points with less than a minute to play, and Davis came through with a much-needed bucket. He put the ball on the deck, bumped Aaron Gordon out of the way and tossed in a tough floater to push the Lakers' lead back up to four.
Then, down on the other end, he extended for an incredible block to seal the win. With just under 10 seconds to play, Facundo Campazzo got open for a 3-pointer that could have made it a one-point game. Somehow, Davis raced out from the block and showed off some remarkable athleticism to extend and deflect the shot.
Following his game-saving defensive play, the television cameras caught Davis saying "we're back," which shows just how fast things can change in the NBA. Less than 24 hours ago, Davis told reporters, "This is the lowest we've been … But the only way is up."
Thanks to the win, the Lakers did go up to fifth place in the West. Their next task is keeping that positive momentum going, because with just one game separating them from the seventh-place Blazers, there's still plenty of work to do over the next few weeks.