When the Lakers needed him most on Friday, Anthony Davis let them down.
When they led Dallas by four points with 7.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter and needed him to be smart, he foolishly disputed a Maxi Kleber 3-pointer and was called for a foul. Kleber, who had taken just 24 free throws before Friday and made 58% of them, made all three to cut the Lakers’ lead to one point.
When they needed Davis to make a pair of free throws with 6.7 seconds remaining, he made just one, leaving the Lakers up by two. And when Dallas subsequently got the ball in, Davis got lost defensively, closing down too late to prevent Kleber from nailing a 27-foot jumper to make the difference in a 111-110 win over the Lakers that stunned the sellout crowd in Crypto. .com Sand.
The Lakers’ loss in the first game of a five-game homestand wasn’t just Davis’s fault. They missed five shots after taking a 107-102 lead with 3:16 to play. They made just 19 of 31 free throws in the game. “We take our free kicks, we’re probably not having this conversation,” coach Darvin Ham said.
But they missed those free throws, and Davis didn’t lead them emotionally or by example.
With a chance to gain ground on teams fighting for a spot in the play-in tournament, the Lakers were at their worst when the situation called for them to be at their best. After their second straight loss, the difference between them and 11th place in the ranking – out of contention for the play-in – was .001.
“We are losing our opportunities, for sure. It’s frustrating,” Davis said after a 28-point, 20-rebound performance that was overshadowed by his recent mistakes.
“We’re still in a position to do something special, with the way we started,” he said, referring to the team’s 2-10 start to the season. “We just have to talk about this (Saturday), find a way to improve for Sunday and then win the next four at home before going to Chicago.”
With LeBron James still recovering from a foot injury, the Lakers needed Davis to lead them on Friday. Inspire them. take them to It didn’t. There’s no way around that.
Before Davis said anything else to his teammates after the game, he told them that the last play was his fault. He said that he would see a movie on Saturday and practice free throws. But he missed the chance to move up, leaving the Lakers on an emotional seesaw and under increasing pressure with each game.
“At the end of the day, there’s nothing we can do about it, to be honest. It happened,” Davis said of the missed opportunities and loss. “Our focus now is on Sunday, trying to get a win against Orlando. But this one is tough, the way it ended.”
He said he felt great after missing Wednesday’s game in Houston for the ever-unpopular load-management reasons related to his stress injury to his right foot. So there were no physical issues he could blame on Friday, though he had ice packs taped to both knees and both feet stuck in ice cubes after the game.
When asked about his positioning when he fouled Kleber on the three-point attempt, he said he tried to contest it from the sidelines. “I’m smart, I never really jump directly in front of people because they jump so far. I probably still cut it a bit. I haven’t looked at it,” he said. “But I just tried to really jump next to him. I actually think he shot a little left, honestly, but a couple of bad defensive plays on my part.”
On his missed free kick with 6.7 seconds left, he said he shot a little to the right. “We would have gone up three after that point. I’m still processing it,” said Davis, who went 8-for-11 from the free throw line. “I mean, think about it, he raises three, even if he makes a three, in overtime.” The sigh. “I mean, a tough loss,” he added.
On the final play, he acknowledged that he didn’t anticipate what Kyrie Irving would do after Irving received a pass from Theo Pinson on the Mavericks’ second drive to get the ball.
“With seven seconds he dribbled almost the entire clock. Me just reading him, knowing he was probably going to take the last shot, he does his actual shooting motion and just goes down, doesn’t shoot,” Davis said. “So when it goes up, I was drawn to it. He was looking for the rebound, thinking that he was shooting it. Then he made a pass to Kleber. And he makes a shot ”.
Wenyen Gabriel said that Davis’s willingness to take the blame showed that Davis is a worthy leader.
“He is our best player right now and it shows that he takes responsibility for being the best player,” Gabriel said. “That is something that is important for the continuity as a team and to have confidence in each other and obviously we trust AD. That was just a moment. Obviously, it’s not just about AD, but him taking responsibility for that is something that’s important rather than pointing fingers in terms of chemistry going forward.
“But we didn’t make some free throws. Kleber hit a great shot at the end. We have to get out, but we can’t do anything about it. We’re going to have to rely heavily on AD during this final stretch. We’re going to have to really come together at this point. This is not the time for us to point fingers or separate ourselves from each other. This is where we’re going to have to dig deeper and it’s going to show the identity of our team.”
The Lakers will almost certainly enter the play-in tournament, in part because every team they compete with beats each other most nights and because Portland and New Orleans are fading. They should be better than this, hoping for a spot in an artificial, expanded postseason setup. If they’re going to be better, Davis will have to be better too.