The ball popped out of the basket as Anthony Davis’ hand was still hanging on to the rim. What should have been a slam dunk left the 6-foot-10 forward slowly shaking his head.
Davis, who has battled lingering shoulder and rib injuries this season, was held to 14 points on five-for-14 shooting and grabbed just one rebound in the Lakers’ 122-101 rout of the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night at Staples Center. The All-Star played a season-low 28 minutes as the Lakers (11-2) ran away behind 33 points, 12 assists and no turnovers from LeBron James.
Davis was coming off a five-for-12 shooting performance in Friday night’s 99-97 victory over the Sacramento Kings, who sent relentless double-teams toward him. The number of field-goal attempts in the past two games are the fewest this season for the eighth-year forward. When asked about Davis’ limited shot attempts, Lakers coach Frank Vogel took responsibility.
“There’s going to be nights where he doesn’t get 20 shots because they’re going to double-team every time he touches it and make him a facilitator,” Vogel said before Sunday’s game. “That still doesn’t mean we don’t want to try to be creative in getting him the basketball in scoring position, not only [a] facilitating position. So it’s something I have to do better at.”
For Davis, his only concern is that the Lakers continue their winning streak, which stretched to four Sunday.
“Hey man, we’re winning,” said Davis, who had five assists Sunday. “I don’t really care about any of that. … When I do get the ball, I just try to play the right way. As a result of that, we were able to get up big in the first half. I’m not worried about shots. I’m worried about winning.”
Davis’ only rebound of the night came with 35.8 seconds left in the third quarter. It was just the seventh time in his career that he had one or fewer rebounds in a game. He immediately followed the defensive board with an alley-oop dunk on the other end, finishing off a lob from Rajon Rondo. It was Davis’ final flourish of the game, as he sat for the entire fourth quarter.
Despite the short night, Davis tied his season high in blocks with five, contributing to 14 total blocks that were the most for a Lakers team since Dec.3, 2002, against Memphis (16). Centers Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee had three and two, respectively, with Danny Green adding two and James and Kyle Kuzma each tallying one.
“We know that defense wins championships,” Howard said, “so for all of us, that’s our main goal: to make sure that we hold opponents to under 100 points a night.”
The Lakers lead the NBA in blocks per game with 7.8. Davis, who came up with the game-sealing block in Friday’s win, said when he struggles offensively, he takes his frustration out on defense. To Vogel, that is a “sign of the winner.”
“When the offense isn’t really going, knowing that he’s got to impact the game in other ways, and the ability that he has to impact the game in the other ways, makes him a winner,” the coach said.