All the ups and down of the regular season prepared head coach Frank Vogel and hos Los Angeles Lakers for what equates to a best two out of three to see what team advances to the second round of the NBA playoffs against the Phoenix Suns.
With the series tied at 2-2, the Lakers face the Phoenix Suns on the road on Tuesday at 7 p.m. local time, looking to take back control in Game 5.
But Los Angeles will likely have to do without the services of Anthony Davis. L.A.’s big man suffered a left groin strain -- an MRI confirmed according to Vogel -- and will be questionable for Tuesday.
“He’s literally day to day,” Vogel told reporters on Monday. “We’re going to see how it feels tomorrow (Tuesday). We’re going to treat it overnight, do everything we can to get it feeling better and we’ll see where he’s at tomorrow.”
Davis had played well before the injury, scoring 34 points in Game 2 and Game 3 -- both wins for the Lakers.
However, Davis appeared to suffer the most from L.A.’s condensed offseason. He needed a full offseason to recover from his longest season ever of his eight-year NBA career that included his team’s championship run through the postseason in Orlando’s NBA bubble.
Instead, Davis received a little over two months to prepare to defend his team’s NBA title. For the oft-injured Davis, it appears the 71-day offseason was not enough.
The Lakers built their roster to help lessen the load for Davis and the team’s other superstar LeBron James, brining in Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schröder, Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews during the offseason.
They also added a quality center in Andre Drummond and sharpshooter Ben McLemore at the trade deadline.
Still, with the deepest roster in the NBA, the Lakers have still struggled with maintaining a healthy Davis and LeBron James.
Davis missed a career-high 36 games during the regular season with an assortment of ailments, the most significant of which was a right calf strain that forced him to miss over two months.
In all, the Lakers finished 19-17 without Davis in the lineup. The Lakers learned how to win games without their superstars during the regular season, and likely will have to do so with Davis injured again.
“When you see it, and you feel the energy of our group -- even the guys on our bench rooting us on and having that type of supportive chemistry -- it feels good,” Vogel said, when asked how the Lakers can create sustainable winning in the postseason. “It gives us a little glimpse of where we’re going and who we can be. So, I don’t think the way the regular season ended, we’re going to be comfortable where we’re at from a cohesive standpoint this early into the playoffs, but we’re going to keep grinding each day and try to build that.”
James will need to be at the forefront of the collective energy for the Lakers to advance, taking on more of the scoring load. James said he’s up to the task.
“For me, it’s putting our team in position to be successful,” James said, when asked about doing more in Davis’ absence. “It starts with my approach. It starts with my accountability. It trickles down to everybody else. So, these shoulders were built for a reason. And if it takes for me to put some more on top of it, then so be it.
“Win, lose or draw, I’m ready for the challenge.”
The Lakers also should get some help with the potential return of starting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who missed Game 4 with a bruised left knee. Caldwell-Pope said he’s hopeful that he will be healthy enough to play on Tuesday.
“I want to play (in Game 4),” Caldwell-Pope said. “It was just 50-50. I felt a little more soreness in my knee, so I kind of called it and did not play. But I’m feeling better. I’m still questionable about going tomorrow.”