Watching the Phoenix Suns blowout the Los Angeles Lakers by 29 points in a playoff rematch Sunday night was difficult to endure for anyone who enjoys good basketball. The Lakers were hopeless from the start, as they fell behind early and couldn’t muster up the energy for any kind of comeback.
The Suns took full advantage of an out of sorts Lakers squad and exposed the team’s defensive weaknesses, even with Chris Paul on the sidelines. The disastrous game invited another cycle of quotes from Lakers players about effort.
For the first time since injuring his foot almost a month ago, Anthony Davis spoke up about the team as well, via Matthew Barrero of NBA.com:
“LeBron is a hell of a player. We’re up and down. It’s been that way all year especially on the defensive end. Offensively I’m not too concerned but the last two seasons we’ve been one of the top teams defensively. And this year, I don’t even know where we are, to be honest. That’s not like us. So that’s the biggest thing with us, I get so frustrated when we miss assignments or things like that because we know what we’re supposed to do on the defensive end. I’m that defensive anchor for our guys and when I’m not out there we have a lot of miscommunications and mishaps. That’s the biggest thing I’ve seen from our group. Not being as validated as we should be defensively. But then it’s the sense of urgency from me to try and get back out there because I know I can help these guys, especially on the defensive end. I can only say so much from the sideline when these guys are playing. Trying to be involved as much as I can [defensively] knowing we have coaches and other guys who can handle the offensive end.”
Davis’ criticisms are well deserved. The Lakers are 19th in defensive rating this year. Compared to the 2020-2021 season where they were in eighth place, and their 2019-2020 title season where they were third, the discrepancies are glaring.
This is partially due to the trades made in the summer to acquire Russell Westbrook, but mostly the Lakers are missing their big man in Davis. He played only 10 games after his return from a knee injury he suffered back in December before hurting himself again for a total of 37 games this season.
Of course the hope is that Davis can return and stay healthy to help the Lakers postseason, assuming they keep their place in the standings. Davis is thinking bigger picture, however, as he acknowledged the window closing in on his and LeBron James’ time together:
“Very short window. We don’t know how long he has left in this league. Phenomenal player. Future hall of famer. Being able to play alongside him, you want to take advantage of that. We did the first year. Last year we were both banged up and this year kind of the same but more so me. Now that window, every day, is closing. That’s another frustrating part. A lot of guys don’t get to play with talent like that. I had the opportunity to do so and I want to take advantage of that time. I think he has another year left and then who knows. I don’t know what he’s going to do but we have this year and next year to take advantage of that and get another ring out of it.”
The current Lakers roster hasn’t given fans much to be excited about in terms of a 2022 championship run. Davis’ return is necessary to compete, but it hardly solves all of the team’s problems.
Carmelo Anthony helps James with the scoring workload, but still falls short
Virtually every Laker player on Sunday night looked clueless. Even James was caught not transitioning with the defense a few times early in the game. The team was able to get efficient minutes out of Anthony, who has been a consistent backup scorer to James in recent games.
In 18 minutes, Anthony had 18 points and shot 57% from the 3-point line.
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