Wait-and-see time for Lakers: 5 takeaways from Nuggets loss
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 122-105 loss in Denver on Sunday night:
1. The only thing that matters
Anthony Davis is hurt. It’s his right Achilles tendon. And until he receives an MRI in Minnesota on Monday, it’s impossible to know how serious it is.
“All I care about is his health. I want him to be healthy. Our team needs him to be healthy,” LeBron James said. “No rush. No timetable. We have no idea from that aspect. We just want him to be healthy and get back to full strength.”
Davis had missed two games last week with Achilles tendonosis, an injury that he said had more to do with what covered the Achilles tendon than the tendon itself. He returned and played well against Memphis on Friday before leaving the game in the final minutes with some soreness.
Then he was back in the starting lineup Sunday.
Highlights from the Lakers’ 122-105 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.
“I think today was the first day where it felt completely fine,” Davis said Sunday night. “Didn’t feel it at all this morning, afternoon, pregame, anything. So, it just felt like we were headed in the right direction on the treatment side, the rehab side — and you know, another setback.”
2. MRI might be more important than any game this season
The Lakers didn’t have much info on Davis’ injury — they called it an “Achilles strain” and left it at that.
Davis said that, in their initial examination Sunday, team medical staff painted a relatively optimistic picture.
“Obviously the doctors don’t want to rule out anything and then it’s something, or say it’s something, then it’s not,” Davis said. “But they say everything looks good, but they still want the MRI just to make sure.”
If the news is a serious injury, the Lakers would obviously be devastated, their title hopes severely punctured. If it’s more temporary, the Lakers know it’ll be a problem to replace Davis’ production.
“It’s always next man up, no matter who’s out. We’re not asking anybody to pick up what AD does,” James said. “Nah. You can’t do that. It’s impossible. He’s a special player and a special talent for a reason. So, everyone individually has to pick up their play for the collective of the team in AD’s absence.”
3. No second-guessing
It’s natural to wonder whether Davis should’ve been on the court Sunday, reentering the injury report with that sore Achilles after his first game back against Memphis.
“There’s always concern, and they’re not going to put him out there if there’s risk,” coach Frank Vogel said. “If the medical team clears him to play, he plays.”
Davis said, assuming that this is a re-aggravation, he’ll attack the rehab even harder than before.
“I’m gonna do the same thing, the same steps, to get it back right,” Davis said. “Obviously be a little smarter with it. Like I was smart the first time, but even more smarter — up the treatment more. Instead of three times a day, maybe five times a day just trying to get it back to where it needs to be … go out there and help the team.”
4. What now?
In the short term, the Lakers have two clear options to replace Davis in the starting lineup.
Kyle Kuzma has been a popular choice for Vogel this season as the fourth-year forward has settled into a complimentary role as a rebounder, active defender and spot-up shooter. He scored 19 off the bench Sunday and was the only rotation player without a negative plus/minus rating against the Nuggets.
He started for Davis in the second half and had a one-handed tip dunk that was the highlight of the night.
Markieff Morris is also an option, though he recently fell out of Vogel’s rotation, briefly resurfacing during Davis’ last Achilles absence.
Morris missed all five of his shots Sunday.
“We got a lot of guys that will step up if AD misses some time,” Vogel said when asked about Kuzma. “The guys will step up. It’s not going to fall on any one person. We got a lot of firepower and a lot of resources.”
5. Oh yeah, there was a game too
It wasn’t a good start, but it certainly wasn’t as bad as it had been. The Lakers trailed 9-2 on Sunday before they began playing with a pace and force that have eluded them for most of their now-snapped seven-game winning streak.
Davis and James were a big part of it, the two players connecting in the paint as the Lakers built a seven-point lead.
That goodwill, though, was squandered as the team once again struggled to shoot — both from deep and the free-throw line.
The Lakers missed 10 free throws and the accuracy only got worse farther away from the basket. The Lakers made only six-of-28 from three, with Denver scoring 39 more points on three-point shots.
It was the fourth consecutive game the Lakers shot less than 30% from three-point range.
How’s this for a weird stat: The Lakers were 6-0 when they shot below 30% from three this season. The rest of the teams in the NBA when shooting worse than 30%? 37-114.
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