When the Lakers needed him most on Friday, Anthony Davis let them down.
When they were leading Dallas by four points with 7.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter and needed to be smart, he foolishly contested a three-point shot by Maxi Kleber and was called for a foul. Kleber, who had taken only 24 free throws before Friday and made 58% of them, hit all three to cut the Lakers’ lead to one point.
When he needed Davis to hit a pair of free throws with 6.7 seconds left, he converted only one, leaving the Lakers up by two. And when Dallas subsequently inbounded the ball, Davis lost ground defensively, stopping too late to prevent Kleber from sinking a 27-foot jumper, for a margin of 111–110 victory over the Lakers. Surprised the sold-out crowd at the Crypto.com Arena.
The Lakers’ loss in the opener of a five-game homestand was not on Davis alone. They missed five shots after taking a 107–102 lead with 3:16 to play. He converted only 19 of 31 free throws in the game. Coach Darwin Hamm said, “We make free throws, we’re probably not having this conversation.”
But he didn’t make free throws, and Davis didn’t lead emotionally or by example.
With an opportunity to gain an edge over the teams they are battling for a spot in the play-in tournament, the Lakers were their worst selves when the situation demanded they perform at their best. After his second consecutive loss, the difference between him and 11th place in the standings – out of play-in contention – was .001.
“We’re definitely missing our opportunities. It’s frustrating,” Davis said after a 28-point, 20-rebound performance that was overshadowed by his late miscue.
“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 need to talk about it now [Saturday]Find a way to get better for Sunday and then win the next four games 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. carry them. He did not. There is no getting around it.
Before Davis said anything else to his teammates after the game, he told them that the last play was his fault. He said he would watch film and practice free throws on Saturday. But the chance to go up was lost, leaving the Lakers under an emotional swing and under increasing pressure with every 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 losses. “Our focus is now on Sunday, trying to get the win against Orlando. But it’s tough, the way it ended.
He said he felt great after sitting out Wednesday in Houston for the always unpopular weight management reasons related to a strain injury to his right foot. So there was no physical problem he could blame Friday for, although after the game both his knees were ice-wrapped and both feet were encased in ice buckets.
When asked about his position when Kleber was fouled on a three-point attempt, he said that he tried to fight it from the side. “I’m smart, I never really jump straight in front of people because they jump so far. I still probably cut him a little bit. I haven’t seen it,” he said. Tried to jump to the side. I really think he shot it a little left, honestly, but there were some bad defensive plays by me.
On his missed free throw with 6.7 seconds remaining, he said he shot a little to the right. “We would have been up three after that point. Still processing it,” said Davis, who was eight for 11 from the free-throw line. “I mean, you think about it, three up , even if he makes three, overtime.” He sighed. “I mean, a tough loss,” he said.
In the final play, he admitted that he did not anticipate what Kyrie Irving would do when Irving attempted to inbound the ball after taking a pass from Theo Pinson on the Mavericks’ second attempt.
“With seven seconds left he dribbled almost the entire clock. I’m just reading him, knowing he was probably going to take the last shot, he goes into his actual shooting motion and just comes down with it, doesn’t shoot it,” Davis said. “So when he goes up, he pulls me in. I was going for the rebound, thinking he was shooting it. Then he made a pass to Kleber. And he makes a shot.
Wenyan Gabriel said that Davis’s willingness to take the blame proved that Davis was a capable leader.
Gabriel said, “He is our best player at the moment and it shows that being the best player takes responsibility.” “It’s something that’s important to have consistency and trust in each other as a team and obviously we trust AD. That was just a moment. It’s obviously not just on AD, but For him to take responsibility is something that is important rather than pointing fingers in terms of chemistry moving forward.
“But we didn’t make some free throws. Kleber made a great shot at the end. We’ve got to get out there, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re going to have to rely heavily on AD during this late stage. We really have to come together. This is not the time for us to point fingers or separate from each other. This is where we have to dig deep and this is going to show the identity of our team.
The Lakers will almost certainly be in the play-in tournament because all the teams they’re competing with are beating each other overnight and because Portland and New Orleans are fading. They have to be better than that to expect a place in a fantasy, expanded postseason setup. If they’re going to get better, Davis has to get better, too.