On Sunday, injured forward Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers was made available to media ahead of a meaningless Suns-Lakers regular season game, ostensibly to talk about his return to shooting drills but also to revisit his role in the Phoenix Suns 2021 Finals run.
Davis was excited about the possibility of getting healthy by playoff time — if the Lakers even make it that far.
“I’m very optimistic about it,” Davis said. “As far as a number or something, I would love to say 100 but with only a certain amount of games yet, not 100 percent sure.”
Davis has played in only 37 of 67 games all season (MCL, ankle/foot), but that’s still more than he played a year ago (36 of 72) before getting healthy in time for the 2021 Playoffs. The Lakers have 15 games to play, but with a 29-38 record and 9th seed in the West their best hope is the 7-10 seed Play-In tournament for the right to play the Suns in the first round.
While Davis was noncommittal about making it back, he was more certain his injury was the only reason the 7th-seeded Lakers lost to the 2-seeded Suns in the first round last year.
“I think we know that, I think they know that,” he said in response to the question. “I just feel like they just got away with one.”
The Lakers were up 2 games to 1 at the time day-to-Davis went down to injury. Davis was rolling in the wins — averaging 34 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2 blocks in the two wins — but posted just 13 points and 7 rebounds in the game one loss and had just 6 points and 4 rebounds in 19 minutes in game four before he pulled his groin on a failed baseline drive. The Suns were up 51-50 with :45 seconds left until halftime, and got a three from Mikal Bridges to go up 54-50 at halftime. The Suns went on to win games 4, 5, and 6 easily.
Lost in all this ‘AD went down when the Lakers were ahead!’ crap is a failure to remember that Chris Paul, who’d finished 5th in MVP voting, suffered a debilitating shoulder stinger in game one with the Suns up 34-25 in the second quarter. By the transitive properties Anthony Davis and Lakers fans have employed so liberally, the Suns would have swept the Lakers by an average of 40 points had CP remained healthy throughout.
Paul kept playing through the shoulder injury, but was severely compromised.
“No,” Paul said when asked by JJ Redick, on a recent Old Man and the Three podcast, if he could shoot during a few games of that series. “That is a great question … I done had some crazy injuries. This was probably one of the craziest ones, because, dribbling. That’s what I do. [J.J.], I would dribble, and the ball wouldn’t come back up. It was the scariest thing ever. I would dribble and, ‘Whoa. Why am I losing the ball? Why am I losing the ball?’ There was a shot I hit and I literally grabbed it and I threw it from the right elbow and it went in. And I turned and looked at my brother (courtside) and (said), ‘I don’t know how the hell that went in.’”
In the two Lakers wins, games two and three, Chris Paul posted just 6.5 points and 5.5 assists in 25 minutes per contest. He willed his way to 18 points and 9 assists in the pivotal game four win, but only averaged 9.2 points and 7.7 assists in the 6-game series. Compare that to an MVP-candidate regular season and 25.5 points and 10.3 assists per game in the round two sweep of the Nuggets and you can more clearly see how limited Paul was in round one.
Feel free to use liberally pic.twitter.com/DXaT5m0nmH— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) March 14, 2022
This was Devin Booker’s post-game reaction when a reporter mentioned Paul’s injury as another factor in the Suns-Lakers series beyond just day-to-Davis’ injury.
“It’s just all the ‘ifs’. If ‘ifs’ was a fifth, we’d all be drunk. There’s a lot of ifs in this game,” Booker said of Davis’ comment. “And you look at history along the lines, there’s something that comes up for every team during every season. Instead of just taking the high route and going, you have to make a comment like that. It’s kind of funny.”
Here’s the whole scene. You’ve got to watch it to appreciate Book’s reply in full.
"If if was a fifth, we'd all be drunk. ... There's a lot of if's in this game. And you look at history along the lines, there's something that comes up for every team during every season. Instead of just taking the high route and going, you have to make a comment like that." pic.twitter.com/BxanohbOmf— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) March 14, 2022
A few minutes after Davis made those comments, the Suns took on the Lakers in Phoenix. The Suns are fully without Chris Paul this time, and the Lakers are still without Anthony Davis.
The Suns rolled out to a 48-22 first quarter blowout, posting season highs in first quarter scoring (48), first half scoring (79) and first-three-quarters scoring (119) before taking the foot off the gas and playing the deep bench the whole fourth quarter. Again, without Chris Paul.
The game as a total beat down of the Lakers, who now just hope to at least make the Play-In tournament as the 9th or 10th seed. Yes, that Play-In Tournament that LeBron James last year hated so much he demanded whoever thought of it to get fired.
“It was a good start for us,” Booker said casually about the game. “I told you, man, I don’t like to lose two in a row, so we just came with a lot of energy and effort to start the game. They had parts of the game where it felt like they were pushing back, and we rebutted again.”
When asked if the Suns got any extra motivation from Davis’ pregame comments, Booker laughed.
“This was gonna happen anyways,” Booker said. “I just think it’s funny.”
The Suns are now 54-14 and have a 7.5 game lead over the field with only 16 games to play When the playoffs start, they will almost certainly have the one seed, and will face the loser of the Play-In championship game.
There is a chance that the Lakers get Anthony Davis back, and that he makes all the Lakers’ warts go away. You know, the Lakers who already boast scoring leader LeBron James, one of the two best NBA players ever.
It’s possible that the Suns will indeed play the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs again this year.
Shaquille O’Neal, a former Laker, said recently on TNT that a ‘very powerful source’ in the Lakers organization thinks the Lakers have the Suns ‘right where they want them.’
Kenny Smith of TNT said recently that he thinks the Lakers will not only make the playoffs but will win a series — knowing full well that the Lakers only chance now is to win the Play-In tourney and face the Suns in round one.
“If ifs was a fifth, we’d all be drunk” indeed.