Connect with us
Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Blazers, LeBron James

Anthony Davis on the 2 ‘mistakes’ that cost Lakers game vs. Blazers

Anthony Davis had a basic explanation for Los Angeles Lakers’ costly loss to Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center.

According to Davis, it wasn’t Dame Time, nor a lack of healthy talent that partially caused the 106-111 defeat, which officially dropped the depleted Lakers (37-30) into the no. 7 seed and play-in tournament territory.

Rather, it was a momentary absence of intelligence.

The Lakers and Blazers (38-29) entered Friday’s matchup in a virtual tie for the no. 6 seed, but Portland clinched the season series and tiebreaker with their clutch win.

The short-handed defending champions — without their two lead orchestrators, LeBron James (ankle), Dennis Schröder (health and safety protocols), and a third key ball-handler in Talen Horton-Tucker — admirably scrapped and clawed with a streaking Blazers team into the final minute. However, it wasn’t enough.

On the bright side: The Lakers were fueled by Davis’ finest outing since returning from a calf injury. AD had 36 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and resembled the fearsome two-way force that Lakers fans have grown accustomed to.

By necessity, he played as assertively and efficiently as he has since re-joining the team, hitting 12-of-23 field goals, 2-of-3 from deep, and 10-of-15 from the line in what he described as the “biggest game” of the season.

“This is the best game since he’s returned, for sure,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s getting a little bit stronger each game. It’s a very encouraging sign. I think he still has a ways to go until he’s back to relay having his rhythm and timing and legs under him, but he had a terrific performance tonight. Just as a group we felt short.”

Davis, who exited Thursday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers with back spams, gave a positive report on his body. He admitted that he might have “had a little bit more juice” after his abbreviated appearance vs. the Clips.

“I feel good. Feel like I’m getting my legs back under me. Getting the rhythm.”

Yet, the Lakers spoiled Davis’ masterclass with crucial errors after a last-gasp run cut Portland’s double-digit lead to three points with 1:10 remaining.

First, after a stop, Kyle Kuzma — who had been hot from three in recent games but was cold on Friday — bricked a quick-trigger triple in transition rather than taking the open layup and cutting the lead to one.

Then, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso committed back-to-back fouls on Lillard and C.J. McCollum (Ben McLemore tried), unnecessarily sending both stars to the line.

“Mental mistakes,” a dejected Davis responded when asked about the difference down the stretch. “We competed. We fought. But, at the end, just some mental mistakes that beat us. Didn’t have to foul … on that last one when AC fouled Dame with a 10-second difference…And then when we had the stop, the block on (Jusuf Nurkic), fast break. Maybe Kuz could have gotten a two … especially cause he was struggling. Then again, good shooter. Tough play in-between: Guy who shoots the shit out the ball, didn’t shoot it well tonight…Layup’s probably the right play.”

Caruso’s mistake overshadowed an otherwise gritty performance from the fourth-year guard. After nearly missing the game with a foot contusion — Vogel was unsure if he’d be able to tolerate the soreness — Caruso chased Lillard around for a season-high 35 minutes and 18 points.

But, as one of the team’s smartest players — and their lone available lead guard — Caruso took responsibility for the uncharacteristic mental lapse.

“As far as my mistake goes, fouling when we had the clock: pretty disappointed in myself, being blatantly honest,” Caruso said. “Being a point guard, being one of the more vocal guys, one of the higher IQ guys on the team right now with a couple of our leaders, our point guards missing, I was pretty disappointed in myself just messing up that part of the game…Because we battled so hard, being down 10 with about 3-4 minutes to go, to get back into a one-possession game. That’s tough to deal with after the game we played and the effort we put into it.”

67 games into the 2020-21 season, the Lakers still have a host of chemistry issues (Andre Drummond was awful for the third straight game), but Vogel wasn’t buying that as an excuse for avoidable gaffes.

“All of that’s stuff irrelevant,” he said on his team’s limited experience together. “Gotta make those plays down the stretch if you want to win close games. We didn’t in that situation.”

Davis posited that the Lakers could have done a better job communicating.

“It was a tough play. Obviously, when you’re in the heat of the moment…it’s just a lot going on for a player and sometimes you don’t hear the ‘Don’t!’…especially when you’re down, clock running,” he acknowledged. “We just gotta be smart in those situations…Maybe we communicate it at the timeout or on the free-throw line or something…It’s on me, I gotta let the players know, but it was a funky situation.”

Those errors are easy to highlight, but there were a handful of plays — from defensive breakdowns to unlucky developments around the rim — that affected the outcome of this pivotal matchup and, very possibly, the Lakers’ playoff positioning.

Davis had multiple shots rim-out, including a jumper, a three, and a dunk that somehow went through the net and bounced out as AD hung on the rim after taking a shot in the arm. No bucket, no whistle, no points.

“I thought it was a foul. A lot of contact,” Davis said. “It still went down, and then I just seen it pop up back. It was a weird play. There’s nothing you can do about it. Those plays didn’t cost us the game, but two plays we wish we would’ve had for sure.”

Lillard drained an on-brand, cold-blooded triple on the next play.

Caruso also had a potentially goal-tended layup go uncalled, while Kuzma was called for a questionable basket interference on what looked to be a clean tip-in slam in the 4Q.

“I think that the Kuz tip-back was a legal play,” Davis said. “It was coming out. The official was on the other side of the floor so a tough call for him…he made a great play for the tip-in.”

In general, the Lakers competed well enough to beat a playoff team on the road playing in front of their fans for the first time in a year. Ultimately, Davis lamented the team’s subpar execution throughout the four quarters, rather than a handful of unfortunate moments.

“For sure, those plays can cost us the game,” he said about the mistakes and bad luck, “but it’s the other things that we can control, defensive mistakes…and breakdowns we had on both ends of the floor that can really cost you the game.”

After eight turnovers in the first quarter, the Lakers played two turnover-free quarters before coughing it up six times in the fourth period.

Caruso had another theory for the Lakers’ crunch-time woes.

“We’ve got to be better closing games. A lot of that, I think, we’ve maybe leaned on LeBron late in games because he’s usually our choice and our leader.”

Mercifully, the Lakers may get their closer back sooner rather than later. Vogel said the Lakers would meet Saturday to discuss the possibility of James suiting up for L.A.’s next game, vs. the scorching Phoenix Suns on Sunday at Staples Center.

Time is running out.