Several players need to play better on Tuesday for the Los Angeles Lakers to escape the desert with a 1-1 split in the team’s first round NBA playoffs series with the Phoenix Suns.
Certainly, at the top of this list if Anthony Davis.
The Lakers big man acknowledged the obvious after his team’s series-opening loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday -- his 13 points and seven rebounds in 39 minutes played wasn’t nearly enough to help propel the Lakers to victory.
“There’s no way we’re winning a game, let alone a series, with me playing the way I played,” Davis said during his post-game session with reporters. “This was on me. I take full responsibility, for sure. We’ll be better in Game 2.”
In his last game against the Suns during the regular season, Davis torched Phoenix for a season-high 42 points. He had been playing well heading into the playoffs, averaging 28 points and nine rebounds in his last five games of the regular season.
The Lakers went 5-0 in those contests.
“Phoenix brought more attention to him obviously because of that game,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “And they did a great job, give them credit. They did a great job of limiting his touches, and then when he did get it making things difficult for him. There’s ways we can better to take advantage of him.”
Added James: “It’s never just one guy. But I love when AD (Davis) puts that pressure on himself. We’re a better team when he’s aggressive. We’re a better team when he demands the ball. But we all have to do a better job as well.”
While Davis taking the blame for his team’s struggles on offense is commendable, as James says, L.A.’s issues scoring the basketball are not just about Davis heating up and things will be better.
The Lakers have been in a season-long malaise putting the ball in the basket. The NBA defending champs averaged just 109.5 points a contest, No. 22 in the NBA. Los Angeles shot just 35.4 percent from the three-point line during the regular season, No. 21 in the league.
Injuries to Davis and James -- along with players like Dennis Schröder, Marc Gasol and Alex Caruso missing games -- have not allowed the Lakers to develop cohesion and chemistry offensively.
Bottom line? The Lakers have to develop a blueprint to consistent scoring offensively rather quickly or this series will be over soon.
“We got to make shots,” Vogel said. “We missed nine lay-ups, 11 free throws and didn’t have a great shooting night at the three-point line. But those things will come back around. And we’ve got to look at the tape and figure out ways to get better for Game 2.”
James channeled his inner Marshawn Lynch during his post-game interview. When asked how his shoulder was feeling, he replied: “I’ll be ready for game two.”
When asked about his perspective on the NBA saying he violated the league’s health and safety protocols, James replied: “I’ll be ready for game two.”
James reiterated Game 1 was about feeling out his opponent. Now, he’ll go back, watch the film and develop a game plan for defeating good friend Chris Paul and the Suns on Tuesday.
But it starts with Davis, James and the rest of the Lakers playing better as a group on offense.
“At the end of the day, we gave up 99 points,” James said. “So, I thought we did a heck of a job (defensively). Book (Booker) got off some, but we did a heck of a job of trying to contain everyone else besides (Deandre) Ayton. But as far as their mid-range game, we did pretty damn good.
“But we have to be better offensively, and that will give us a better chance to win.”