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Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers searching for ‘sense of desperation’

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When it was over Wednesday night, after Anthony Davis‘ “must win” declaration in Washington ended with a 116-107 loss to the Wizards, the Los Angeles Lakers‘ star big man stayed on the bench for a bit pondering his team’s predicament.

After Davis missed nine weeks with a calf strain and Achilles tendinosis in his right leg, L.A. has had a failure to launch since his return. The loss to the Wizards dropped the Lakers to 1-3 with Davis back, stumbling in the standings and now holding just a 1½-game lead over the No. 6 Dallas Mavericks and a two-game lead over the No. 7 Portland Trail Blazers with 10 games left in the regular season.

“We control our own destiny,” Davis told reporters on a postgame video conference. “So we have to start playing with a sense of desperation even though we are in the playoffs as of right now. But we’re not that far off from being in play-in games. So we’ve got to play with a sense of desperation, as well.”

The Wizards, winners of 10 out of 12 coming into Wednesday, took control of the game in the second and third quarters, outscoring L.A. 59-42 in the middle frames.

Washington pushed the lead to 19 with 9 minutes, 11 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, before the Lakers showed a bit of the desperation Davis was alluding to.

With Davis shifting to center — the position he often manned during the 2020 postseason en route to the NBA title — the Lakers were able to cut Washington’s cushion to nine with 5½ minutes left, but the deficit quickly ballooned back to 16 with a 12-5 Wizards flurry.

Davis scored 14 of his 26 points in the fourth, while shooting 5-for-8 from the field. While it wasn’t enough to get the win, it was a brief glimpse of the player the Lakers have been accustomed to since trading for him in the summer of 2019.

The quicker Davis can get back up to speed, the better, because LeBron James is near returning from a six-week absence of his own because of a high ankle sprain.

As brilliant as James has been in his career, he’s still 36, playing in his 18th season and trying to get back on the court for crucial games with a couple of brand new teammates. And he hasn’t played a lick in a month and a half.

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Anthony Davis tries to block Rui Hachimura’s dunk but fails as he gets posterized and takes a shot to the face and ends up on the floor.

Andre Drummond, one of those new pieces, along with Ben McLemore, insisted that James’ integration will be seamless.

“I don’t think my brain can process what opportunities will come from [James] being on the floor,” Drummond said after putting up 17 points and 11 rebounds against the Wizards. “Right now we can’t control him being in there, we’ve got to worry about the guys that are playing right now, so we’ve just got to worry about building chemistry with them, and when he does come, I’m sure great things will happen for everybody.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel wasn’t interested in rehashing the loss that saw the Wizards outrebound L.A. 50-41 and shoot 52.2% from the field.

“We’ve just got to look forward,” Vogel said. “We’ve got six out of our next eight at home, seven if you count the Clippers game, and we’ve got to put this trip behind us and continue to work on what we’re doing.”

James could be back for that Clippers game — if not sooner — for L.A.’s final push before the postseason.

Six and a half months ago, the Lakers were on top of the basketball world as champions. Two and a half months ago, they were near the top of the standings at 21-6.

And in three and a half weeks, the playoffs will begin whether the Lakers are ready or not.

“I mean, nothing changed from the beginning of the season throughout now,” Dennis Schroder said. “I mean, nothing has changed. We’re going to keep trying to get better, and, yeah, we’re going to be fine for the playoffs.”

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Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr laments failure to box out, pay attention to detail in modern NBA

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Steve Kerr believes there is a fundamental flaw plaguing this era’s NBA game.

After watching his Golden State Warriors get out-rebounded 57-34 in Thursday’s 126-114 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kerr spoke matter-of-factly about the lack of boxing out he sees in today’s game. Brushing off the idea that his team might be tired given its repeated mental mistakes in back-to-back losses, Kerr expounded on what he is seeing throughout the league on a regular basis.

“It signals to me a modern team,” Kerr said. “This is the modern NBA; guys don’t box out. It’s just the way it is. Every night on League Pass, I see the same thing. Players let guys come in from the weak side, and they think, ‘I’ll just get the rebound.’ It’s a disease that’s rampant in the NBA. The problem is, if you’re a real small team like us, then it’s going to hurt you more than it will hurt other teams.”

Playing without young big men James Wiseman (knee) and Eric Paschall (hip flexor), the Warriors have had experience playing smaller lineups, but Thursday marked another low point on the rebounding front. Kerr believes the difference in rebounding — or lack thereof in certain cases — goes back to the way the game is being taught to this generation’s players.

“Most of these guys didn’t have a high school and college coach yelling at them for a combined eight straight years,” Kerr said. “It’s a different world today. And players grow up in a different way in terms of their basketball background. The detail is often the thing that is lacking.”

Kerr has repeatedly praised the talent level within this iteration of the league, but said it’s the attention to detail that appears to have gotten lost at times in recent years — especially in regard to defense and rebounding.

“Players have never had more skill than they have today in my mind,” Kerr said. “I’m amazed by the skill level. But the little things, getting back in transition — every night on TV, I see teams let a guy run past them in transition for a layup. We do it; every team does it. If you did that 25 years ago, your coach would take you out and he wouldn’t play you again. Now everybody does it, and as a coach, you can’t take everybody out. So there are certain parts of the game that are just different; players aren’t as locked in on those things. I think just because it’s a different time.”

Asked whether he feels the fundamentals of the game are being taught differently than they were in years past, Warriors star guard Stephen Curry demurred.

“I don’t know,” Curry said. “Everybody has a different upbringing in the game. When I was at Davidson, we literally drilled that before, during and after every practice. It’s part of just learning the fundamentals of the game — at this level, maybe it’s taken for granted, I guess that everybody has a certain understanding, angles and physicality and what not, but you have to be able to do it.

“I’m not saying everybody’s going to average whatever type of rebounds, but you know how to do it as a team. I think early in the season this was a big talking point; we figured it out a little bit and now it’s coming back to bite us a little bit now that we’re small again so — it is glaring. 57-34. That’s nuts. So we got to figure that out.”

Kerr pushed back on the notion that his team wasn’t giving enough effort, given the number of times over the past two games when the group looked flat, but he was irked by the lack of physicality his players sometimes showed in going after the ball and securing it — which led to the wide margin in rebounds.

“It’s not even like a college box out or a high school box out,” Kerr said. “In the NBA, it’s more about locating the guy and just putting your hand or your forearm in his chest, letting somebody else go chase the ball. So we were staring up at butterflies, up in the air just looking up and guys were coming right by us. That doesn’t matter what kind of possession it is, what kind of shot it is, it’s just the awareness to go hit somebody.”

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Houston Rockets’ Kevin Porter Jr. fourth youngest to score 50 points

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HOUSTON — Kevin Porter Jr. scored a career-high 50 points to go along with 11 assists, becoming the youngest player ever to log a 50-point double-double with assists.

The performance helped Houston snap a five-game losing streak as they beat the Milwaukee Bucks 143-136 on Thursday night.

Porter beat his previous career best of 30 points in the second half alone, scoring 32 with 17 in the fourth quarter.

Houston trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half but surged in the second half on hot shooting from 3-point range. Houston made 25 of 46 3-pointers, good for a season-high 54.3%.

Porter hit nine of those 3s on just 15 attempts. He joined LeBron James, Brandon Jennings and Devin Booker as the only players to score 50 points in a game before turning 21.

The breakout game comes just one day after Porter was fined $50,000 by the league for violating its COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Porter violated the NBA’s rules against attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people and entering bars and similar establishments when he went to a Miami club on April 19, the league said.

Porter also missed three games due to the protocols following the strip club visit with teammate Sterling Brown.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Kevin Huerter (shoulder) out as Atlanta Hawks’ injury woes continue

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ATLANTA — Kevin Huerter will miss his second straight game with a sprained left shoulder, dealing another blow to the injury-plagued Atlanta Hawks as they try to make a push for the playoffs.

An MRI confirmed Huerter’s injury. It’s not known how long the swingman will be out, but he will definitely be sidelined Friday when the Hawks play their second straight game in Philadelphia against the 76ers.

Huerter is averaging 12.3 points.

Atlanta was blown out Wednesday by the Sizers, losing 127-83 with a makeshift squad that was missing Huerter, Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic, as well as De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Tony Snell with longer-term injuries.

Huerter injured his shoulder Monday in a loss at Detroit.

The Hawks (34-29) are fifth in the tightly bunched Eastern Conference. They still have a shot at home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but they are just as close to falling to a spot in the new play-in tournament.

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