When the Los Angeles Lakers won the championship last season, they did so largely behind the dominant playoffs of their two superstars: LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Now that James is playing with a sprained ankle, the Lakers need Davis to perform more than ever.
Yet in their first playoff game against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, Davis was nowhere to be found. Just two weeks after destroying the Suns for 42 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, Davis scored just 13 points in Game 1 on 5 of 16 shots. DeAndre Ayton passed him 16-7, and for the game. as a whole, the Lakers were outscored by 18 points when Davis was on the ground. It was perhaps his worst playoff game as a professional, and Davis admitted it after the game.
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“I missed a ton of shots,” he told reporters after the 99-90 loss. “We missed a ton of shots as a team. We scored 90 points, really 87 because of that AC 3. We missed 11 free throws. 15 3s, nine layups, we gave up eight offensive rebounds to Ayton alone. kept their team at 99. We played well defensively and gave them a ton of points as well. A couple in transition, they had 16 transition points in the first half. Second chance points. We just have to. be better in that regard, but there’s no way we win a game, let alone a streak, with me playing the way I played. So this one is on me. full responsibility for sure. We will be better in Game 2. “
The Lakers also lost the opener of their first two series last season. In the first round against Portland, Davis shot 8 of 24 from the field. In the second against Houston, the Lakers were outscored by six points with him on the ground. They bounced back to win those two series thanks in large part to Davis’ excellence.
But this season, Davis has only played 36 games with a calf injury. It’s not clear that he’s back at full strength either, and the Lakers aren’t helping matters by clogging the paint with Andre Drummond and Montrezl Harrell. Davis needs to be better to move forward, but the Lakers need to space the ground better around him if they are to put him in a position to succeed. They did this in the Houston series last season by putting their crosses on the bench and playing small. Now they’ll have to reassess their roster again and figure out what they can do to maximize Davis against the Suns.