LOS ANGELES, CA – The Los Angeles Lakers gathered around Anthony Davis while the six-time All-Star writhed in pain on the Staples Center floor.
Another breezy blowout win had just become much less fun for the Lakers and their superstar big man, although it's too soon to say just how serious it will be for their championship dreams.
Davis left in the third quarter after bruising his lower back on a painful fall during the Lakers' sixth straight victory, 117-87 over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night.
Davis bruised his sacrum — the bottom part of his spine above the tailbone — when he attempted to block Julius Randle's driving shot. He got knocked off balance and fell awkwardly to the court, landing hard on his back with 2:45 left in the third.
The Lakers were anxious as they surrounded him under the basket.
“Fingers crossed, hope for the best, pray for the best,” coach Frank Vogel said.
Davis pounded the court in pain and stayed down for roughly two minutes, but eventually rose with his teammates' help and then slowly walked off unaided.
“We're hoping he'll be fine, and we believe he'll be fine,” said LeBron James, who played through illness. “Tough night for us.”
X-rays were negative, but Davis didn't return to the game and he was scheduled for additional testing overnight. His agent, Rich Paul, said his client felt extremely sore.
It seems quite likely Davis will miss at least a little playing time this month, given the Lakers' lofty record and the long road to the playoffs still ahead. The Lakers have a two-game road trip starting Friday in Dallas.
“We hope he's all right,” Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “We're just hoping he'll get better soon. We need him.”
James scored 31 points and Caldwell-Pope added 15 after bouncing back from a flagrant foul to his head by Bobby Portis, but the Lakers (30-7) didn't exactly celebrate becoming the second NBA team to win 30 games this season.
Davis, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, is the primary reason behind Los Angeles' swift rise to the top of the Western Conference. He is averaging 27.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in his first season after the Lakers traded most of their young core to New Orleans for him.
“He's one of our pillars,” Vogel said. “He's our present. He's our future. He's one of the best players in the world, so obviously he means a lot.”
R.J. Barrett scored 19 points for the Knicks, and Randle had 15 points and 10 rebounds against his former team. New York dropped to 0-3 on its four-game West Coast trip.
Los Angeles had little trouble holding off the Knicks in the second half despite Davis' abrupt exit. The Lakers pushed their lead to 30 early in the fourth quarter with a run led by James, who scored 16 points in 16 minutes in the second half.
Knicks: Former Lakers forward Reggie Bullock started in place of Marcus Morris and scored seven points in 27 minutes. Morris sat out with a sore neck. ... Portis had two points on 1-of-5 shooting in six minutes.
Lakers: James thought about sitting out after feeling sick all day, but elected to play. ... Avery Bradley scored 12 points despite sitting out the end of Sunday's game with an ankle injury. Bradley had no swelling and didn't need to miss a game, he said. ... The Lakers didn't win their 30th game last season until Feb. 27, when they were 30-31.
Portis was ejected early in the second quarter for a flagrant foul on Caldwell-Pope. Portis clocked Caldwell-Pope in the head while the Lakers veteran was going up for a fast-break dunk, knocking off his headband and sending him to the locker room.
“It wasn't intentional at all,” Portis said. “I went for the ball. My intent was never to hurt anybody or anything like that. Just trying to make a play on the ball. Missed the ball and hit him in the head. My apologies to Caldwell-Pope. Happy to see him go out and do his thing, come back into the game and impact the game."
Caldwell-Pope returned in the third quarter and scored eight more points.
“I was feeling great before I even came back on the court,” he said.
Barrett, the Knicks' 19-year-old rookie, got a thrill from playing against James: "It was definitely cool. He was always my favorite player growing up, so that was good. But once I got in the game, it was a regular game now. Just got to play.”
THE NEW 30
The Lakers joined the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks as the league's only 30-game winners so far this season. Los Angeles hadn't won 30 games this quickly since the 2008-09 season, when Kobe Bryant's Lakers started 30-6 and eventually won the 15th of their 16 NBA titles.
DWIGHT'S ALL RIGHT
Dwight Howard had another strong game with eight points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. The Lakers' veteran big man also hit the eighth 3-pointer of his career in the fourth quarter to much amusement from his teammates and fans.
Knicks: Visit the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.
Lakers: At the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.
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