LOS ANGELS — LeBron James likes to remind reporters of the Lakers’ small margin for error in games this season.
They need everyone healthy; they need everyone to play well and they need a little luck too.
They got just about everything in a whisper-close 112-111 road victory Thursday against the Indiana Pacers. It marked their second tight win in a row in a season with too many frustrating, if not controversial, losses.
Anthony Davis and Patrick Beverley pushed the Lakers toward a late-game flurry as the Lakers ultimately overturned a 15-point deficit.
A finally healthy Davis showed his immense value at both ends of the court in the final minute. He gave the Lakers a one-point lead with 35.1 seconds to play by making an 11-foot turnaround with a high degree of difficulty as Pacers center Myles Turner defended him.
Then Davis blocked Tyrese Haliburton’s lay-up attempt with 16.1 seconds to play. Haliburton, the Pacers’ All-Star guard, tried to blow by Davis at the top of the key but Davis stayed with him and made the play.
“That’s what makes him so unique,” Lakers Coach Darvin Ham said. “His mobility when he’s playing pain free, he’s one of the elite defenders in our league. Top-five, if you ask me.”
Beverley has a reputation for being a feisty defender and he showed it down the stretch… along with some important offense.
In the last four minutes, Beverley made a 3-pointer, stole the ball at midcourt from Haliburton and was part of a double-team in the final seconds that forced Buddy Hield into an awkward hoist from the baseline as time expired. It didn’t go in.
The Lakers didn’t lead in the game until James’ 3-pointer gave them a 108-106 edge with 2:35 to play.
James scored 26 points and moved within 63 points of passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for first on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. It’ll probably happen Tuesday against Oklahoma City or Thursday against Milwaukee, both of which will be in Los Angeles.
Maybe the only thing the Lakers (25-28) didn’t have was luck on their side. Haliburton was declared healthy before tip-off after missing 10 games because of a sore knee. The Pacers were 1-9 in those games but came close to a win Thursday with Haliburton putting up 26 points and 12 assists after being selected an All-Star reserve for the Eastern Conference.
Davis, somewhat surprisingly, was not selected as a West reserve. He has played only 29 games because of injuries, which hasn’t helped his cause. The Lakers’ on-court struggles probably didn’t help either.
He didn’t seem perturbed.
“My wife is ecstatic,” he said. “She already texted me, ‘Where are we going?’”
The All-Star Game is Feb. 19 in Utah. The Lakers have five more games before then, each one increasingly more important as they move toward the end of the regular season.
“We’re a team that’s resilient,” Ham said. “We’re a team that’s fighting. We know what position we’re in.”