Lakers player grades: L.A. barely squeaks by the struggling Wizards

After coming back from a big deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers faced the Washington Wizards on Thursday. Given that the Wizards were on a 12-game losing streak, one may have thought the Lakers would’ve gotten themselves an easy win.

Instead, they had a relapse of the ailment that has afflicted them throughout the season — the inability or unwillingness to play hard and be focused when facing an inferior team.

The Wizards came out surprisingly competitive in the early minutes of this game. They led 27-19 late in the first quarter, and they were still up 58-52 with just over four minutes left in the first half. While the Lakers did rally a bit to take a 70-69 lead at halftime, their focus and interest level seemed spotty, especially since they were outscored by nine in fast-break points and allowed Jordan Poole to score 20 points off the bench.

The Lakers were never quite able to take true control of the contest, despite taking a two-possession lead multiple times. Washington actually went ahead 123-120 with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, and it took the Lakers an extra five minutes in order to escape with a 134-131 overtime win.

While they were outscored from the 3-point line, as usual — this time, the discrepancy was 27 points in that category — they did attempt and make twice as many free throws as the Wizards. But Los Angeles cannot keep putting forth such lackadaisical efforts against teams with worse records than it if it is to make the playoffs.

Still, a win is a win, and the team now has a 33-28 record and is still in ninth place in the Western Conference, although it is just half a game ahead of the 10th-place Golden State Warriors.

Anthony Davis: A-plus

After an underwhelming offensive game on Wednesday, Davis did much better versus Washington. He scored 24 first-half points while getting to the free throw line often, and he also did a decent job of going after offensive rebounds.

He ended up with 40 points on 14-of-22 shooting, 15 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots. Washington’s smaller front line simply couldn’t handle him, whether it was in the low post or off the dribble.

Rui Hachimura: D

Hachimura shot just 4-of-11 against the Wizards, giving him just eight points, and he didn’t get to the free throw line at all. However, he did help out with seven rebounds, two steals and one assist in 35 minutes.

Austin Reaves: C-plus

This was not a great game, but not a bad game from Reaves. He shot 6-of-11 from the field, but he missed both of his 3-point attempts and didn’t attempt a single foul shot. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 39 minutes.

D'Angelo Russell: B

Russell started off well by hitting a pair of 3-pointers early in the game. But he cooled off in the second quarter, going 1-of-5, and he wasn’t much better in the third and fourth quarters.

He did score the first basket of overtime, which always gives a team a psychological advantage. For the game, he scored 22 points while shooting 9-of-21 overall and 4-of-11 from 3-point range, and he also had six rebounds, five assists, one steal and one blocked shot.

LeBron James: A-minus/A

James looked energetic early despite the short turnaround after his Herculean effort in the fourth quarter on Wednesday. He had a couple of thunderous dunks in the opening minutes, and overall, he scored 31 efficient points while also dropping nine dimes, although he did have one or two unforced turnovers.

But James helped preserve this win by doing something his critics say he never does anymore: play defense. He played excellent defense on Poole on the final possession of regulation by denying him a good look on a step-back 3-pointer, which allowed the Lakers to go to overtime. Once there, he had a chasedown block on Poole, then hit a 3-pointer seconds later to tie the game. With 1:41 left, he drew a charge on Deni Avdija that was initially called blocking but then overturned after L.A. challenged the call.

The 39-year-old is now nine points away from reaching the 40,000-point mark for his career. Barring something strange or catastrophic, he will get there on Saturday when the Lakers host the Denver Nuggets.

Taurean Prince: C-plus/B-minus

In 17 minutes, Prince made a bit of a contribution with two points, three assists and two rebounds. But for the second straight game, he didn’t make a 3-pointer, and he didn’t even attempt one on Thursday.

On the season, Prince is at 38.5% from downtown. He will need to get back to that type of consistent marksmanship for the Lakers to make the playoffs.

Spencer Dinwiddie: B-plus/A-minus

Dinwiddie’s shooting has been up and down since joining the Lakers earlier this month, but on Thursday, he got the job done in that category. He went 3-of-5 overall and 2-of-3 from downtown, giving him 10 points, to go along with three assists in 26 minutes.

When he is efficient offensively, he can take a significant burden off James, Russell and Reaves while he’s on the floor.

Jaxson Hayes: B-plus/A-minus

For the first time in a few games, Hayes showed good energy and effort on the boards. He grabbed five rebounds while scoring six points in 11 minutes, and one of his three baskets came off a gorgeous alley-oop pass from James.

But Hayes’ rim protection still left something to be desired, and it is something he’ll need to improve moving forward.

Max Christie, Cam Reddish: Incomplete

For the third straight game, head coach Darvin Ham chose to play Christie only sparingly. The second-year guard got onto the court for just eight minutes, and he made his lone shot attempt while adding one assist.

Meanwhile, Reddish played just four minutes and contributed nothing on the stat sheet.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire