The Los Angeles Lakers were embarrassed on Sunday afternoon by the Phoenix Suns. The Suns punched first in game one of the first-round series between the two rivals and kept control of the game throughout, never letting the Lakers get comfortable. It was a disappointing effort from the purple and gold all-around given that they entered the series as betting favorites despite being the lower seed and it was not a convincing performance that they could mount a title defense.
In particular, Anthony Davis had an abysmal showing, finishing the game with just 13 points and seven rebounds, shooting five-of-16 from the field, and never looking like he could dominate the matchup as he did in the final regular-season game between the two squads.
Davis took responsibility for the loss after the game, saying that he “missed a ton of shots” and that he will be ready for game two. But while it’s nice for AD to take that responsibility on his shoulders, it goes far beyond just missing shots for the All-Star. He took just four of his 16 shot attempts at the rim, settling for jumpers or fading away from the basket any time he did drive towards it. Considering Davis’ shooting touch disappearing since he returned from injury, it seems disastrous for him to be taking so many jump shots in a playoff game. Of course, some of that is on factors beyond his control, such as sharing time with Andre Drummond in the starting lineups, limiting the space in the paint that he can drive into. But even without Drummond on the floor, Davis resorted to the jump shooting rather than getting to the basket and drawing fouls. It’s no wonder that he finished with a game low -18 for the night.
Defensively, Davis can change a game, although allowing two offensive rebounds to Deandre Ayton late in the fourth quarter effectively put any comeback chances to rest. But he needs to be much more involved and engaged offensively for the Lakers to have a chance of getting out of this series, let alone repeating as champions. The Lakers simply do not have the firepower to withstand this kind of performance from Davis especially as LeBron James is still working his way into game shape.
LeBron made sure to stand up for his teammate by appreciating that he took the responsibility for the loss but putting the blame on the team as a whole. And that’s true; the Lakers simply were not good enough across the board and got outplayed in every phase by the Suns. But as the final score shows, they could have still stolen a crucial game one if Davis had the type of game everyone expected he would against a young, inexperienced frontcourt.
That’s the value of superstars in the NBA. So long as they show up.