Russell Westbrook pretended to rock a baby to sleep after bullying his way to the rim for a basket. He howled after hitting LeBron James on a backdoor cut.
And when Troy Brown Jr. hit a three-pointer early in the third quarter, Westbrook put his hands high in the air — while pedaling on a stationary bike behind the team’s bench, where the rest of the Lakers’ non-starters sat.
For the first time since Nov. 26, 2008, Westbrook came off the bench for an NBA game, fulfilling coach Darvin Ham’s vision that the former MVP would be freer captaining the team’s bench unit.
And as much as he has this season, Westbrook actually looked like Westbrook, the high-speed dynamo that the Lakers have sparsely seen since acquiring him.
But even with one big thing going right, another big thing went wrong, the Lakers were forced to play without Anthony Davis in a 111-102 loss to Minnesota.
It’s only the second time the Lakers have gone 0-5 to start a season since moving to L.A. They also lost the first five games of the 2014-15 season before finishing 21-61.
In the final minutes, fans at the Target Center started chanting “0-and-5.”
James scored 28 and Westbrook had 18 points, but the Lakers committed 22 turnovers (five by Westbrook) leading to 25 Minnesota points.
Anthony Edwards had 29, Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 21 rebounds and Karl-Anthony Towns had 21, 14 coming in the fourth.
Davis was questionable to play Friday morning and participated in the team’s morning shootaround, but his lingering lower back pain acted up in the afternoon, knocking him out of the lineup for the first time this season.
“Well you know the back is a tricky thing. It felt good this morning when he woke up, and then went from activity to inactivity this afternoon,” Ham said before the game. “And when you’re on the road, it’s not your bed, things could just — just rolling over in a foreign bed could tweak and cause discomfort. But just getting out in front of it, and not wanting to put him into a make-or-break situation too early in the season. Albeit this is the fifth game, we still have 77 left to play, and obviously you’re gonna need him in a major way to be healthy. So ‘Why risk it?’ was our thought process.”
Davis, who said it was his goal to play all 82 games this season, said his back started bothering him in training camp after the team took a bus to and from the Pechanga Resort in Temecula, 115 miles from the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.
“Bunched up for a couple hours kind of affected it,” Davis said earlier this month.
The Lakers hope the game off can allow Davis to heal enough to play Sunday against Denver in Los Angeles.
“He has the sentiments of not wanting to let the team down, of always wanting to be available for the team,” Ham said. “But like I told him, ‘Don’t try to be a hero. We’re all human. Try to block out the outside noise that’s there and try not to fall back into the past of what’s gone on the last couple years with your body. Every day just try to put your best foot forward. And if you’re not able to do that in a healthy way, then let’s get out in front of in the short term to see what we can do, so in the long term you are available for many, many more games than you have been in the last couple years.’ ”
Without Davis, the Lakers used Brown, Damian Jones and Wenyen Gabriel to try to match up with the Timberwolves’ super-sized frontcourt.
Brown scored 12 points, hitting four of six from three. Austin Reaves also made two of three from deep, but the rest of the Lakers shot just three of 20, with James and Westbrook combining to shoot two of 10.