SALT LAKE CITY — The Los Angeles Lakers clinched a spot in the play-in tournament with Tuesday’s 135-133 overtime win against the Utah Jazz.
However, the heavy workload the win required out of Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis — both recovering from foot injuries — could affect their availability for Wednesday’s game against the LA Clippers as the Lakers attempt to climb even higher in the Western Conference standings.
James, in his fifth game back after missing four weeks with a torn tendon in his right foot, played 38 minutes.
“The extra five minutes definitely didn’t help,” James said. “It definitely didn’t help but we needed to get the win.”
Prior to the Jazz game, he hadn’t played more than 32 minutes since making his return.
“How my foot feels when I wake up and I step out of bed,” James said when asked what would determine whether he suits up for the Clippers game or not. “That’s been the most important since I’ve injured it five weeks ago — the next day after either rehab or training or treatment, whatever. It’s always that.”
Davis played 42 minutes against the Jazz — the first time he’s logged north of 40 minutes since returning in late January from a 20-game absence because of a bone spur and stress reaction in his right foot.
Since Davis has been back in the mix, he sat out one leg of all three back-to-backs on the Lakers’ schedule. In fact, he played only one back-to-back all season, Nov. 6-7.
The decision to hold Davis out of back-to-backs since returning from the foot injury was up to the Lakers’ medical staff, sources told ESPN, with the risk of re-injury increased from overuse.
“I haven’t played in a back-to-back in a long time,” Davis said. “So, I mean, we’ll all get on a phone call or something tomorrow morning and go from there.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said no determination had been made on James, Davis or D’Angelo Russell — who sat out Tuesday with a sore left foot — for the Clippers game as of late Tuesday night.
“We have our short-term business that we need to take care of and our long-term business that we need to take care of,” Ham said. “We prioritize a player’s health, first and foremost. Regardless of what the stakes are or the implications of with a win or a loss or all of that. We need our players to know that we care about their health, first and foremost.”
Ham said it would be a “group decision” between players, coaching staff, front office and medical staff to make the call for Wednesday.
“If we see that they won’t have any issues, in terms of their health, and we’re not putting them at risk, then we’ll proceed,” Ham said. “If there’s any kind of question marks, we’ll walk through them, talk through them, and go from there.”
While the Lakers are guaranteed a play-in spot after James’ 37 points, including the game-winning layup in the extra session, and Davis’ 21 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks helped stave off the Jazz, they could finish as high as No. 5 in the West depending on how the regular season concludes.
L.A. (41-38) has three games remaining: Wednesday against the No. 5 Clippers (41-38); Friday at home against the No. 4 Phoenix Suns (44-35); and Sunday to close out the season hosting the Jazz (36-43).