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Austin Reaves gets the ‘MVP! MVP! treatment with 35-point game in Lakers win


LeBron James leaned back in the chair farthest from the Lakers bench, dressed all in black with matching sunglasses as a forced smile crossed his face.

The crowd was suddenly more alive, chanting “MVP, MVP.”

It wasn’t for James, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, who was sidelined and forced to watch with crossed hands and crossed legs. It wasn’t for Anthony Davis, still out of rhythm after a heavy defeat days before.

No, the most valuable player, at least on Sunday, was Austin Reaves.

Then it happened over and over and over and over again: a roar after a Reaves free throw rolled around the rim and inside and another when he froze play from the line.

He scored 35 points, a career-high for the second-year player signed as an undrafted free agent, as the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic 111-105.

The win snapped the Lakers’ first losing streak since D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt played together.

Sunday marked three weeks since James suffered a foot injury in Dallas, an injury that threatened to ruin the Lakers’ season.

The team has gone 6-5 with James recovering.

In the most optimistic assessment on record to date, manager Darvin Ham spoke of “when” James would return, the absence of “if” being notable.

“Yes, we do anticipate that he will return at some point,” Ham said when asked about his choice of words.

The Lakers have played well enough to stay in the postseason race. But it hasn’t helped them gain significant ground.

“We just have to continually defend our tails, make sure we’re having good shooting contests, try to find rebounds, keep teams on one possession. And then be disciplined with our pace, our running habits and sharing the ball. And we can live with the results,” Ham said before the game. “Bron, with him gone, it reveals that we have a lot of different weapons that are very capable players on both sides of the ball that can help us achieve the goal that we’re trying to achieve.

“And when he comes back, he’ll just add something else. But the boys just have to play. We have to stick together.”

James’ return would be a big boost for Davis, who has carried the main offensive load.

After a disastrous stretch to close out Friday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks, where he fouled a 3-point shooter, missed a key free throw and the game-winning goal went over his hand, Davis couldn’t get fully back on track against the Magic. .

He broke away on each of his first three trips to the foul line, the crowd humming as shots went wide. Despite shooting more than 80 percent from the line this season, the decisive errors in Lakers losses have gone from being a coincidence to a trend.

Making 15 of 15 shots Sunday, the Lakers benefited from an important fact: Davis’s off nights are never that bad because of his impact on defense. On Sunday, he had four blocks and two steals in the win.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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