Los Angeles Lakers fans rejoiced when Anthony Davis returned to the lineup after missing the previous five games with a bruised tailbone suffered in a nasty fall against the New York Knicks two weeks earlier.
Despite Davis’ return, the Lakers (34-9) lost a road game 139-107 in a blowout against the Boston Celtics (28-14).
Davis barely played because of two quick whistles in the opening minute of the game, which got him benched for the rest of the quarter. Davis finished with nine points, four rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and one steal in only 23 minutes of action.
Celtics guard Kemba Walker ended an almost comical, yet bizarre, 0-28 streak against LeBron James teams. The losing streak for Walker dated back to his days with the Charlotte Hornets.
“I’m happy I got one at least, before he goes,” said Walker. “Who knows how long he can play, because he’s just incredible. But you know, it’s only one. One and 28.”
LeBron scored only 15 points, but added 13 assists in the lopsided loss.
The Celtics also ended a three-game losing streak and served the Lakers their biggest loss of the season by 32 points. After winning nine games in a row, the Lakers dropped two out of their last three games. The Lakers are still the top team in the West, but their lead was trimmed to four games over the Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers.
Kuzma Shines During Davis Injury
Davis played in 36 out of 43 games for the Lakers this season. His talent is unprecedented, but it’s his durability that’s been the big question mark. So long as Davis remains healthy and avoids a major injury, the Lakers can be bona fide contenders.
Davis averages 26.6 points per game, which is ninth-best in the league. He averages 9.3 rebounds per game. He’s also the fourth-best in the NBA in PER advanced metrics, with 28.10. Davis’ defense is outstanding with 2.6 blocks per game, and he’s quick enough to challenge trey-happy big men on the perimeter, or act as a human fly swatter in the paint.
When Davis returns to the lineup, LeBron doesn’t have to shoulder the entire scoring workload, and can focus on whatever the team needs to get done that night in order to secure a victory. LeBron’s assists are up thanks to the addition of Davis. LeBron ranks #12 in the NBA in scoring with 25.2 points per game, but King James leads the NBA with 11.0 dishes per night.
When Davis went down with the bruised butt injury, the Lakers turned to sixth-man Kyle Kuzma to step up. The third-year player averages 13.2 points. He erupted for 26 points and 36 points in the first two games after AD injured his gluteus maximus. The Lakers were particularly excited about his 36-point outburst in a victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If the Lakers expect to go deep in the playoffs this year, they’ll need a reliable third scorer behind Davis and LeBron. It’s no surprise that the Lakers lost a tough game against the Orlando Magic by one point on a night Kuzma scored only four points on a 2-for-10 shooting night.