The gash that once required Xavier Henry to receive eight stitches on his forehead no longer appears easily visible. Same thing with the knot that formed near Henry’s right temple.
“No blood this week,” Henry said with a laugh. “I haven’t cut my face or anything like that.”
But there’s a more important stain that Henry began to remove.
Henry posted 21 points, one short of his career high, in the Lakers’ 100-86 win Sunday over the Sacramento Kings. That marked a stark contrast to the 13 points he scored over the previous four games combined on only 5 of 16 shooting.
“I just needed to be aggressive,” Henry said. “I haven’t played as well these last few games. I know I can score and bring the defensive intensity. I came out and played the same game. But I was a little bit more aggressive tonight.”
Why wasn’t he aggressive before?
“These games go different ways. You have to adjust,” Henry said. “Guys have been playing well, but I haven’t been playing as well. I try hard each and every game. Whatever comes out of it comes out of it.”
Actually, the Lakers have liked Henry’s aggressiveness all season.
He flies hard to the basket. Henry’s developed a little bit of an outside touch. Despite fluctuating roles at small forward as a starter and as a reserve, Henry has neither gloated about his promotion nor moaned about his demotion.
But Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni believes the 22-year-old Henry doesn’t properly control his motor.
“There is going to be ups and downs. He can’t lose his aggressiveness,” D’Antoni said. “There’s times when it gets out of control, we’ll take him out. He’ll have to learn through his mistakes. We’ll keep pointing them out and showing film and have patience with him. Tonight, that paid off.”
The most notable change involved his production at the free throw line.
After shooting a team-worst 54.7 percent mark from the foul line this season, Henry went 7 of 11 from the stripe against Sacramento. Henry attributed that improvement to his constant work in the gym, a mindset he has refused to compromise even amid the struggles.
“I’m going to do the same thing I’ve been doing,” Henry said. “You’re always going to have ups and downs. You’re not always going to score 20 points and do things like that. But as long as you affect the game in other ways, which I think I’ve done, steals, defensive intensity and make sure I play hard each and every night, I’m all right.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org