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Anthony Davis starts against Trail Blazers

Anthony Davis' 31st game of the season was cut short, leaving the Lakers' immediate future even more uncertain.

From NBA.com News Services

UPDATE: Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis will start against the Portland Trail Blazers after leaving last night’s loss to the LA Clippers with back spasms.

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The Los Angeles Lakers’ struggle to keep its star duo healthy continued on Thursday with Anthony Davis exiting a pivotal conference matchup against the LA Clippers due to back spasms.

The All-Star big man initially checked out after twisting his right ankle in the first quarter, but that was not the ultimate cause for his permanent exit. Davis played just nine minutes and scored four points in the Lakers’ 118-94 loss.

He said he tweaked his ankle after stepping awkwardly on the scorer’s table in the first. He fell, but got up and stayed in the game. He was later ruled out due to back spasms.

“I know it looked bad, but it’s fine,” Davis said of his ankle, adding that his back locked up. He had it worked on and expects to play Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers (10 ET, ESPN) in what he called the Lakers’ biggest game left in the regular season.

Game Recap: Clippers 118, Lakers 94

Davis, who has played in just 31 games this season, is producing his lowest raw numbers since his first two years in the league. The former No. 1 overall pick is averaging 21.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks.

The Lakers have lost four of five, with six games remaining in the regular season. The only thing they’ve clinched so far is a spot in the new State Farm Play-In Tournament, which LeBron James has derided. James, who is still dealing with a high ankle sprain, will be out again Friday night for a pivotal game in a season series is tied at one.

“We don’t look at it as something bad,” Anthony Davis said of the Play-In format. “We need games to get back accustomed to each other anyway. We don’t want to go that route, but if it happens, it happens.”

The absence of James on the bench, meanwhile, took an unexpected turn after the game when Lakers coach Frank Vogel told the media that it was not injury related. His reason for not playing, however, remains a sore right ankle.

“He’s just not here,” Vogel said.

As the Play-In Tournament looms, what will teams prioritize as the season wanes?

James hasn’t been on the Lakers’ bench the last two games, nor will he travel with the team to Portland.

The defending champion Lakers are quickly sliding down the Western Conference standings and are in danger of dropping into a win-to-get-in scenario of the Play-In Tournament.

Davis’ latest setback comes after he already lost two months recovering from a calf injury.

“I don’t know if we got juju issues around here,” Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said. “Every game is something different — injuries, mishaps. Can’t complain, can’t dwell, can’t have excuses.”

Davis’ status and James’ absence will be front and center heading into Friday’s game. That outcome will determine the head-to-head tiebreaker between the Lakers and Blazers, who are deadlocked in a battle to stay above the Play-In seeds.

“When we’re 100% healthy we are the top team in the league, so we keep that in our minds,” Davis said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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