Column: Anthony Davis head injury could lead to Lakers’ knockout

Anthony Davis holds on to the ball.
Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins tries to poke the ball away from Lakers forward Anthony Davis during Game 5 on Wednesday night in San Francisco.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Anthony Davis crouched under the basket, his hands clutching his head.

He stumbled to the Laker bench, his legs wobbly, his shoulders slumped.

He returned to the locker room in a wheelchair, apparently too woozy to walk.

He later departed the Chase Center under his own power, the last Laker to leave the locker room, heading to the bus with slow and deliberate steps.


Sigh. Pause. Scream!

This is what the Lakers feared. This is what the Laker fans dreaded. This is what the Golden State Warriors needed.

LeBron James scored 25 points but the Lakers were unable to keep up with the Warriors late in the 121-106 loss in Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference semifinals.

May 10, 2023

This could be a nightmare.

The situation has long been a running joke, but it’s not funny now, not with the Lakers in the middle of a serious championship run, not with their big man in the middle of career-defining indomination.

Davis could be injured again, and all hell could be about to break loose.

With 7:43 left in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday night, Davis was elbowed in the temple by the Warriors’ Kevon Looney.

Nine seconds later, Davis left the game, and so did the Lakers’ hopes, their surging comeback bid snuffed out in a 121-106 defeat that has turned this series upside down.

What was once a three-games-to-one rout has become a three-games-to-two nail-biter.

Where the Lakers once had three chances to end this, they now have basically one.

If they don’t win Game 6 at Arena on Friday night, they will be forced to return here for a Game 7 in a hostile environment against the defending champs and, well, they don’t want any part of that.

The Lakers lost to the Warriors 121-106 in Game 5 on Wednesday in San Francisco, unable to secure their trip to the NBA Western Conference finals.

May 10, 2023

What a difference an elbow makes.

The Lakers unsurprisingly offered no insight on his condition, and, while TNT’s Chris Haynes reported that Davis “appears to have avoided a concussion,” it was all very mysterious.


The only thing certain was the somber Lakers didn’t look thrilled.

Davis’ locker was cleaned out by the time the media was allowed entry nearly 30 minutes after the game, so it was left to his perplexed coach and weary teammates to report on what they had seen.

They were as uncertain as anybody.

Coach Darvin Ham entered the postgame news conference and said, “He seems to be doing really good already.”

When asked about Davis’ next steps medically, the coach was clearly annoyed and said, “We just got done with the game.”

Austin Reaves said he thought Davis would play Friday, but he mused about what would happen if he didn’t.

“Obviously A.D. is huge to what we do,” he said. “I believe he’ll play. If that’s not the case, we’re still a group of NBA basketball players that have played games without him this year.”

Reaves, who scuffled to 15 points and was frequently burned defensively, added, “Like I said, you never want to play a game, a big game, without a guy like that, but that’s the nature of the game. That’s really it. Score more points.”

LeBron James struggled to lead the team on his own down the stretch and, when asked about his running mate nearly an hour after the game, he said, “I didn’t see the shot. I just seen the aftermath. But the medical team said he’s doing better. That’s what matters most.”


When Davis left Wednesday’s game, the Lakers had whittled an 18-point lead down to 11. With their giant presence gone, they slowly shrinked and couldn’t sustain their charge.

“We had some good moments,” said James. “But not as close to 48 minutes as we needed to be.”

Unspoken was that those good moments usually happen when Davis is on the court. It has become clear this postseason that Davis, not James, is the Lakers’ most important player.

It is Davis who is the most unguardable. It is Davis who is the most unstoppable. It is Davis who is the most feared.

For the game, Davis scored 23 points with nine rebounds while playing with four fouls against a driving Warrior attack.

Anthony Davis holds his head with both hands as he sits on the bench.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis holds his head after an injury during the fourth quarter of Game 5 on Wednesday night.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

For the playoffs, Davis has been easily the league’s most dominant defensive force, averaging four blocks, two steals and 14 rebounds along with his average of 22 points.

They can’t win a championship without him. They might not even be able to win this series without him. If the injury causes him to miss one game, those 48 minutes could lead to the end of the Lakers’ season.

With Davis not playing his full minutes Wednesday, the Warriors outrebounded the Lakers by 10 and were outscored by only two points in the paint. There are many ways the driving and dishing champs can take advantage of his absence. If he doesn’t show up Friday, expect to see all of them.

“Obviously they’re a prideful group,” said Ham. “Salute to them, taking care of business on their home floor.”

There should be no salutes for the “NBA on TNT” crew for giggling about Davis’ injury Wednesday night, even subtly ridiculing him for the use of the wheelchair.

Davis has been justifiably the butt of many jokes during a career in which he’s missed so many games with aches and pains, his nickname is “Street Clothes.”


But this was an injury to the head. This was no laughing matter.

Anthony Davis could be injured again, and, this time, nothing about that is funny.