The Los Angeles Lakers badly needed a win on Monday. Coming off two straight embarrassing losses in a season that has started off on the wrong foot, the team needed their fortunes to turn against the Charlotte Hornets. And though it was not pretty in the slightest, Anthony Davis and company managed to do just enough to escape Staples Center with a three-point victory in overtime.
Without LeBron James available for the third straight game, Davis was the one who had to step up. While battling a sprained thumb on his shooting hand and, perhaps more notably a stomach illness that saw the big man retreat to the tunnel to vomit in between the third and fourth quarters, he did just that in leading the charge for the much needed morale-boosting win.
32 points (13-25 FG), 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 blocks, 3 steals pic.twitter.com/K1DsfJT5rQ
— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) November 9, 2021
Davis left Saturday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers early due to the same illness but stuck through this one knowing the importance of a win in that moment.
“They lost four in a row so they needed a win but we needed a win most,” Davis told reporters after the game. “We weren’t losing this game.”
Davis’ performance went a long way in ensuring that would happen. His 32 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and five blocks represented just the second time in the last 20 years that a player had recorded such a stat line. The five blocks included one on the final possession of the game on a Terry Rozier jumper that led to a broken possession that saw a contested Hornets three bounce off the rim and clinch the Lakers win.
Davis has become a central figure for the Lakers in their pursuit of righting the wrongs of last season. Coming off a disappointing season of his own, Davis has been phenomenal in the early going despite battling various ailments. For a player that has faced criticism throughout his entire career for his injury woes, Davis’ mentality to keep fighting through these relatively minor issues has not been remotely appreciated enough.
That winning mentality has also seeped into Davis becoming a more vocal leader on the court, something Carmelo Anthony has encouraged the younger star to do more often. In Monday’s game, that leadership included Davis cooling down his teammates after five free throws on one possession allowed the Hornets to climb back into the game and force overtime.
“Every game this season that we’ve lost, we’ve beat ourselves,” Davis said, highlighting the need for that composure.
The leadership and toughness from the Lakers’ star did not go unnoticed or unappreciated by his teammates. Anthony shot back at critics of AD’s toughness, saying “I don’t know whoever questioned that […] For him to [vomit] and come back to help us win this game, that says a lot about him.”
Davis’ co-star, Russell Westbrook, added “He’s a team guy which is what you want. Regardless of what injuries he’s dealing with, he puts the team first.”
The Lakers will be hoping that mentality trickles down the rest of the roster. For stretches on Tuesday, when the Lakers’ defense made numerous rotations to defend the scorching Hornets or ball movement resulted in huge threes that swung the momentum, they looked like a team again. Those stretches have wavered and need to become a constant for the Lakers to become the contenders they fancy themselves as.
Davis’ leadership will go a long way in making that happen.