Anthony Davis sounded the alarm after the Los Angeles Lakers’ 99-90 Game 1 loss to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the NBA playoffs on Sunday: It’s time for him to step up.
“There’s no way we’re winning a game, let alone a series, with me playing the way that I played,” Davis said after finishing with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. “So, I mean, this is on me. I take full responsibility, for sure.
“We’ll be better Game 2.”
Davis missed 11 of his 16 field goal attempts, and the visiting Lakers were outscored by 18 points in the 39 minutes he played, giving him the worst plus-minus on the team.
He said that L.A.’s hot start — the Lakers built their biggest lead of the game when they went up 15-10 just 4½ minutes into the first quarter — lessened his personal urgency.
“Usually, I come out the gates very dominant, and I think tonight, or today, we had it going,” Davis said. “So, I kind of just got lost in the offense. But I still have to be assertive and find ways to get the ball.
“It just kind of took me out of rhythm, but that’s on me. I still got to find ways to make plays on that end of the floor, offensively. So, like I said, it’s on me. I’m not too worried about my performance. I know I’ll be better. I know we’ll be better in Game 2.”
“I love it when AD takes that pressure on himself,” said James, who led L.A. with 18 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds. “We’re a better team when he’s aggressive; we’re a better team when he demands the ball. But we all got to do things a lot better, as well.”
Davis proved his ability to bounce back in last year’s run to the championship. In the three games Davis played in the 2020 postseason following a contest in which he shot under 50% from the field, he averaged 31.7 points on 57% shooting and L.A. went 2-1.
“Anytime he comes to the pressure and tells you guys we can’t win with him playing the way he played, he always responds,” James said. “So, looking forward to that. And when AD is AD again, we’ll be the Lakers.”
Davis was outplayed by fellow former No. 1 draft pick Deandre Ayton. In the battle of inverse initials — AD vs. DA — the Suns center finished with 21 points on 10-for-11 shooting and 16 rebounds and was plus-16 in 37 minutes in his playoff debut.
“I thought DA was pretty sound as far as not going for pump fakes and having his stick hand up,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “Anthony missed some shots, but I thought DA did a really good job of just trying to stay in front of him. He’s an all-world player, so DA is going to have to be even better in Game 2. We know what we’re going to face when we play these guys again.”
It was a far cry from Davis’ final regular-season performance against Phoenix just two weeks ago, when he had 42 points and 12 rebounds in a 123-110 win for the Lakers.
“Phoenix brought a lot more attention to him, obviously because of that game,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “They did a great job. Give them credit. They did a good job limiting his touches and then bringing double-teams when he did get it and making things difficult for him. But there are ways we can be better to take advantage of him.”
To Vogel’s point, L.A. shot just 2-for-6 (including a 1 for 5 mark on 3-pointers) off of Davis’ passes on Sunday, according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information. For the game, the Lakers shot just 7-for-26 on 3s (26.9%) and 17-for-28 on free throws (60.7%).
It will be on more players than just Davis to improve in order to avoid an 0-2 hole come Tuesday.
“I think we got taken out of a lot of things we want to do offensively, Phoenix having a week to prepare for us,” Vogel said, alluding to the play-in tournament that L.A. had to navigate to secure the No. 7 seed while the Suns were off. “Credit them for doing a great job with that. We just got to execute a little bit better on the offensive side of the ball.”