Anthony Davis manhandled fellow superstar big man Joel Embiid and (at least temporarily) silenced many of his doubters with a dominant, 31-point performance in just his second game back from a knee sprain. Unfortunately for him, the rest of the LeBron James-less Lakers couldn’t give him any help as the Philadelphia 76ers’ supporting cast rolled over their L.A. counterparts, handing the purple and gold a 105-87 loss.
Davis started 11-14 of the field and finished 14-21 on the night (along with 12 rebounds) as his midrange jumper looked as good as it has all season. Davis’s pick-and-pop chemistry with the team’s guards was the only consistent part of the Lakers’ offense all night, and in just as encouraging of a sign, he looked like his old self on defense as well.
As the Lakers’ primary center, Davis finished with three blocks and two steals and held Embiid — who had been averaging 39 points per game over his last six games — to just 26 in this one.
AD showed up, the rest of the Lakers? not so much... pic.twitter.com/57XRSmtSOG— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 28, 2022
But no cavalry was on the way for AD. James was ruled out pregame due to left knee soreness, the first time this specific injury of his has been publicly disclosed this season. However, it marked a quick return to the injury report for The King after he had apparently fully recovered from his early-season abdominal strain earlier this week.
Without LeBron, the rest of the Lakers’ supporting cast was flat-out awful. Russell Westbrook had 20 points, but also committed a game-high 6 of the Lakers’ 17 turnovers, continuing his frustrating play of late. One game after Carmelo Anthony and Malik Monk helped the Lakers to a big road win over the Brooklyn Nets, both struggled against Philly’s superb wing defense on Thursday. Melo finished 4-11 from the floor with 9 points while Monk had 11 points on 3-13 shooting.
The rest of the Lakers’ role players fared even worse. Starters Avery Bradley and Malik Monk had just two points each, and though they played decent enough defense for them to finish with plus-minuses of -2 and -1, respectively, their contributions on that end were wiped out by the abysmal defensive performances of Anthony, Monk, Talen-Horton Tucker and even a very off night from rookie guard Austin Reaves. Horton-Tucker in particular continued his horrid recent stretch, finishing with just 7 points, was a team-low -23.
Meanwhile, the Sixers barely broke a sweat despite their best player’s relatively light scoring performance, knocking down wide-open jumpers and getting easy lanes to the rim all night long. Tobias Harris had 23 points while Tyrese Maxey and Georges Niang finished with 14 points each. Adding insult to injury, former Laker Andre Drummond snagged 10 rebounds against a struggling L.A. second unit.
This loss drops the Lakers to 24-25, and they will now have to deal with a quick turnaround as they head south to face the Charlotte Hornets for the second leg of this back-to-back — and third nationally televised game of the week — on Friday. Tip-off is at 4:30 p.m. pacific time on ESPN.