For the second consecutive season, Anthony Davis will not represent the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA All-Star Game. Neither AD nor his head coach, Darvin Ham, seem to mind.
Davis, who took the floor just after the Western Conference All-Star reserves were announced on Thursday night, helped the Lakers (25-28) steal a win over the Indiana Pacers at the Gainfield Fieldhouse, 112-111. In his fourth game back from a foot injury, the center posted 31 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks — including a rejection on a potential go-ahead layup by first-time All-Star selection Tyrese Haliburton with 16.1 seconds to go. On the possession before, Davis gave the Lakers the edge with a tough midrange fadeaway.
The Lakers (25-28) hold on for a 112-111 win in Indiana thanks to Anthony Davis' heroics. They made 10 fewer 3s than the Pacers but 17 more free throws.
We came so close to LeBron's first 27/7/7 line of his career — he had 26/7/7. AD had 31 and 14. https://t.co/glmTzbsisU
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) February 3, 2023
“Just tried to stay on his body and make him shoot over the top,” Davis said about the block. “Used my defensive instincts … Don’t use your hands. Move the puppies. Gotta move your feet. Arms out. Make him go through your chest. If he makes a tough shot, he makes a tough shot.”
“AD can guard everyone in this league,” said LeBron James, who had 26/7/7. “He’s a Defensive Player of the Year every night.”
It was clearly an All-Star-caliber performance from Davis in a game the Lakers had no business winning. They were shaky from the field, sloppy with the ball, and generally lazy in the first half. The Lakers didn’t grab their first lead until 2:35 to go in regulation.
However, they impressively clamped down in the fourth quarter (including a trap on Buddy Hield’s buzzer-beater, one of the many huge defensive plays made by Patrick Beverley) and outscored Indy 28-15.
“We take pride on the defensive end,” said AD. “We hold each other accountable on the defensive end. I hold myself to a high standard on the defensive end; hold the group to a high standard on the defensive end. And were able to lock in in the second half and especially in the fourth quarter — hold them to 15 points. Just wanted to win a game, knowing the position that we’re in, that we have to win ball games. We don’t want to be in the play-in tournament. We want to secure a spot.”
“We’re a team that’s resilient. We’re a team that’s fighting,” added Davis. “We know the position we in. We had a good talk about it — what we gotta do. We control our own destiny. Gotta win basketball games.”
AD has played at an All-NBA level when healthy this season. The fact that he’s missed 24 of 53 games is why he’s not headed to Salt Lake City. The Lakers’ only representatives at All-Star Weekend will be LeBron — making his record-setting 19th straight All-Star appearance — and two-way rookie Scotty Pippen Jr., as a G-League invite to the Rising Stars Challenge.
“Nah,” replied AD when asked if the snub is motivation. “I get a longer vacation with my three kids and my wife. That’s how I look at it … I’m pretty sure my wife is happy.”
Ham identified the same silver lining.
“Good,” the Lakers coach said postgame when informed that AD was excluded. “He gets to get some rest … We have business to care of. … It’s about Lakers business right now. We’ve got to get ourselves back to where we belong, and that’s in the postseason.”
“We’re not going anywhere without a healthy AD. And not just a healthy AD — AD playing at an elite level on both sides of the ball,” said Ham “…No disrespect to anyone else on the roster. Obviously, we’ve got a couple of other Hall of Famers and All-Defensive guys and guys who have really established themselves to be great, high-level players in this league.
“But make no mistake about it, AD is the biggest X factor, bullet in the gun, whatever analogy or metaphor you want to use, he is that for us.”
Ham’s outlook would have been laughable early in the season. With the Lakers sitting three games behind the No. 5 seed and getting healthier by the day, it isn’t anymore.