When healthy, he’s always a monster on defense and the glass. And yet, despite the fact that he averaged 25.9 points per game in 2022-23, his offensive role — specifically, the quality and quantity of his shots — has been the most common negative postgame talking point for the Lakers.
That was again the case after his 13-point, 4-of-14 showing in the Lakers’ 103-93 Game 2 loss vs. the Memphis Grizzlies at the FedExForum on Wednesday. His matchup, Xavier Tillman Sr., finished with 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting, plus 13 rebounds. AD posted 5 blocks (and 8 rebounds), but the Lakers — on their lowest-scoring night of the season — needed more buckets.
“I like the shots I took,” claimed AD, coming off 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting in Game 1. “Just missed ‘em. Lotta shots close to the rim I normally make, go in.
“Obviously, I can be better” he added. “Can’t have a night like I had tonight and expect us to win.”
Davis mishandled or failed to finish numerous close-range attempts. He got swatted by John Konchar … twice.
JOHN KONCHAR DENIES ANTHONY DAVIS AT THE RIM pic.twitter.com/tXfk7Krtph
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 20, 2023
“Flush it and get ready for (Saturday),” Davis said about his mindset moving forward. The Lakers will host Game 3 at Crypto.com Arena in what will be the first full-capacity Lakers home playoff game in Los Angeles since 2013 (!).
Darvin Ham has repeatedly put the onus on himself and his coaching staff to find more creative ways to get Davis the ball in opportune positions. On Wednesday, he credited the strategy from the Grizzlies — down two key bigs (Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke) — for negating Davis’ options.
“From my vantage point, initially, just forcing touch catches, denying him, forcing him off his spot, and then crowding the paint, and tilting behind him. Flooding the backside,” articulated Ham.
Austin Reaves (12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) said the Lakers guards can do a better job finding AD.
“Just try to make it easier for him. Get him the ball in better spots. I feel like we got him the ball in a couple tough spots where he had to try and make a shot over two or three people. Just giving him a little bit more space and opportunity just to play his game … If you give him that, he’s really hard to stop.”
That’s all well and good, but it was the type of not-quite-aggressive-nor-physical enough performance from Davis — he shot just four free throws — that the Lakers have oft-lamented.
Puzzling how Anthony Davis has games he’s ultra aggressive on offense then games like tonight he’s contact adverse or doesn’t even seek shots. Only 14 attempts isn’t enough in the postseason. pic.twitter.com/HDwC7RynOx
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) April 20, 2023
“We’ve got to be able to move him around, and that falls on my staff and I because, in the isolation, he’s going to get double-teamed,” Ham said after the Lakers’ Play-In win. “So, trying to get him in more pick-and-rolls, more second shot actions, move him to different areas on the floor. … There’s a plethora of things we can do that we have in our treasure chest that we can try to allow the game to be a little easier and force the defense into compromising positions.”
Unlike in Game 1, LeBron did his part in Game 2: 28 points (12-of-23 FG), 12 rebounds. But, as everybody in and around the Lakers organization has known since the 2020 bubble title: The Lakers are at their best when AD is at his gnarliest, regardless of the defense. As his tepidness increases, their offensive output decreases. In the postseason, the correlation is more direct — and consequential.
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