Anthony Davis suffers another eye injury as Lakers drop important game to Minnesota

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 7, 2024: Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) reacts.

The last time the Lakers dropped a big game at home, Anthony Davis had to leave the court after one quarter, a shot to his left eye sinking the Lakers in a loss to Golden State on March 16.

In that game, the Lakers made a push thanks to 40 points from LeBron James, the safety net built into the roster should Davis get banged up.

On Sunday, the Lakers, playing for every precious inch of space in the Western Conference standings, didn’t have James. He was home with flu-like symptoms as the Lakers began their final week of the season.

But that wouldn’t be the only bad luck to strike them — the next blow came with a little déjà vu.

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Just like it happened against the Warriors, Davis again got hit in the face and had to leave the game, getting struck in the eye by Kyle Anderson’s forearm on a putback.

Davis finished the quarter, returned to the locker room and never emerged, the team ruling him out just before the start of the third.

Without their two stars, there would be no magic like there was earlier this season in Boston. Instead, in a 127-117 loss to the Timberwolves, the Lakers were too small, too easily pushed around and too short-handed to keep all of their good vibes rolling.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson dunks in front of Lakers guard Max Christie in the first half Sunday.

Davis, who left the arena before the game ended, has a good chance of playing against the Warriors on Tuesday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly.

With Davis being evaluated throughout the second quarter, the Timberwolves scored 46 points, turning a game in which the Lakers had a slight edge into a blowout.

“Already being without Bron and seeing [Davis] go out, it's tough. But my hat's off to our guys. They didn't feel sorry for themselves,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “They kept competing all the way through. Just had some unfortunate possessions offensively, couldn't make shots we normally make. Looked a little tired. Guys not having their legs underneath them.”

The Lakers threatened a comeback in the third, closing to within five points with Jaxson Hayes attacking the rim. But Anthony Edwards put the Lakers away as their climb back stalled early in the fourth when the Timberwolves punished the Lakers’ smaller lineups, the team left with just one healthy center option with Davis, Christian Wood and James unavailable.

Minnesota forward Jared McDaniels drives to the basket between Lakers center Jaxson Hayes and guard D'Angelo Russell.

“Just try to scrape one,” D’Angelo Russell said. “I think everybody had to step up. Everybody had to lock back in to not having those guys and what we're gonna do from there. So just man up.” Russell repeated the phrase “man up” two more times after the game.

Rui Hachimura led the Lakers with 30 points and six rebounds and Hayes finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Spencer Dinwiddie (18), Russell (15) and Austin Reaves (14) rounded out the Lakers’ double-digit scorers.

Naz Reid had 31 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves (54-24) and Edwards finished with 26 points and eight assists. Rudy Gobert contributed 18 points and 16 rebounds.

The loss moved the Lakers (45-34) half a game behind the Sacramento Kings for the No. 8 seed in the West.

The Lakers briefly held the No. 8 spot after beating the Cavaliers on Saturday. Under NBA play-in tournament rules, the winner of the No. 7/8 game advances directly to the playoffs, while the loser gets a second chance against the winner of the No. 9/10 game. The loser of the No. 9/10 game is eliminated immediately.

And as Sunday’s game proved, the smallest thing can change the night. One errant swing, one shot to the face, and the night can be over.

At least for the Lakers, there’s still time.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.