LOS ANGELES — LeBron James and Anthony Davis returned to the lineup Tuesday for the Lakers. This was important.
New Lakers acquisition Rui Hachimura had 19 points and a key blocked shot in overtime against the New York Knicks. This was also noteworthy.
Perhaps the most memorable part of the night, however, was Russell Westbrook’s activity in overtime. The often criticized point guard had three assists and drilled a 15-footer from the left side in the final five minutes to help the Lakers defeat the Knicks, 129-121, at Madison Square Garden.
The Lakers needed the win for so many reasons. They didn’t want to start out 0-3 on their five-game Grammy trip. They didn’t want to waste 43 minutes and a triple-double from James. And they didn’t want to fall further out of play-in tournament contention.
As it is, the Lakers (24-28) are still 13th in the Western Conference. There is work to do. Plenty of it.
But the victory meant the end of a nasty 1-4 overtime record for the Lakers, including a highly controversial loss to Boston three days earlier.
“It was great to come out on the right side of this one and not just get to overtime but take it up a notch,” Lakers Coach Darvin Ham said.
Westbrook did exactly that.
He found Davis for a dunk and a layup, along with a sharp pass to James for a layup. His 15-footer from the left side put the Lakers up 125-118 with 1:17 left in overtime.
“Russ came ready to play,” Davis told Spectrum SportsNet. “He’s always staying ready. He was able to come in in the fourth quarter and OT… just kind of leading us to the win. Big time [kudos] to Russ.”
Westbrook, who finished with 17 points and eight assists, obviously preferred this type of outcome to the Lakers’ other overtime misadventures.
“It felt a lot more in control,” he said. “In overtime, every possession matters and I felt like we had control of the game.”
It definitely helped to have James (ankle) and Davis (foot) back after they sat out Monday’s loss in Brooklyn.
James scored 28 points and his 11 assists pushed him past two players into fourth on the NBA’s all-time assists list. James now has 10,338 career assists after moving by Steve Nash (10,335) and Mark Jackson (10,334).
James trails Chris Paul by almost 900 assists.
“It’s amazing because that’s just what I love to do,” James said. “Get my guys involved. Try to get the ball to them on time and on target.”
Not to be ignored, James needs only 89 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for first on the all-time scoring list. It’s expected to happen next week in Los Angeles, either against Oklahoma City on Tuesday or Milwaukee on Thursday.
“We’re very excited. It’s a very huge accomplishment,” Davis said. “To be here chasing first, 89 points [away], the team is very excited. Probably going to be a surreal moment.”
Davis finished with 27 points and nine rebounds in his third game back after missing five weeks because of a stress reaction in his foot. Hachimura had a team-high 12 points in the first half and looked eminently comfortable in only his fourth game since being acquired from Washington for three future second-round draft picks.
The Lakers conclude their road trip with games Thursday in Indiana and Saturday in New Orleans.