LOS ANGELES - The Lakers looked like a team playing the second game of a back-to-back on Wednesday, coming out lethargic, giving up 38 points in the opening quarter and falling behind by as many as 19 to start the game.
The bad times continued to roll all night as the team was down 24 to start the fourth. They fought valiantly and got within nine points but ultimately lost the game, dropping their first home game of the year.
As disappointing as the loss was, the sorest point was the play of Anthony Davis.
After a sensational game on Tuesday where he registered 19 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks and looked like the best player on the court, his encore was an eyesore.
I'm sorry but these are too easy. AD looked shocked Sabonis would even challenge 1 on 1. pic.twitter.com/T7eHM9GfPi— Raj C. (@RajChipalu) November 16, 2023
Against the Sacramento Kings, Davis had just nine points on 3-9 shooting and even worse was his play defensively. The night before, he looked like a Defensive Player of the Year shoo-in. But guarding Domantas Sabonis, he was a defensive liability as Sabonis dominated Davis and ended the night with 29 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.
Whenever Davis has this kind of offensive showing and granted, they do happen at a frequency that is less than desirable, the way fans and media will respond is predictable.
Nicknames like Anthony “Every Other Day” Davis will spew on social media. Talking heads will demand more from Davis and act as if playing good versus playing bad is a decision he is solely in control of. His accolades as a champion? Top 75 All-Time? The face of the franchise? Where was that player tonight?
Even inside the Lakers stadium, a place that should be a sanctuary for the home team, the boos got louder and louder as the night progressed on Wednesday.
I cannot quote the words said, but one's imagination can undoubtedly fill in the blanks and assume what kind of language is used when an angry sports fan is at a game drinking alcoholic beverages and giving a player a piece of their mind.
After the game, many of Davis' teammates went to bat for him and tried to explain the off night.
"Obviously, I think everybody else around AD can do more to help AD and not that he necessarily needs it, but just to make his life a little bit easier," Austin Reaves said. "I feel like sometimes he finds himself having to go against a set defense. If we just move more for him, create a little bit of confusion on the defense, then it would make his life a little easier. Not that he needs it 95% of the time, but like I said, I'll have to go back and watch the game and see what we could have done better to help him."
Defensively, the Kings did an excellent job of even preventing Davis from putting up attempts, only shooting the ball nine times. Guards like Reaves are responsible for making sure bigs are getting the necessary touches to get into a rhythm.
Anthony Davis on his hip, which he’s been treating daily: “It is what it is … obviously it was bothering me a little bit.”— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 16, 2023
He played 41 minutes on Sunday and 27 last night (Tuesday), and didn’t look to have his typical movement and burst tonight in 35 minutes.
Besides his teammates helping him get into a flow, Davis acknowledged he has to play better and pointed out that his hip issue, which took him out of a game just days ago, was still a factor, especially on a back-to-back.
"Obviously, it was still bothering me a little bit, but I still have to go out there and do my job," Davis said in the locker room after the game.
Props to Davis for owning the foul play, but that mea culpa might be disregarded when it comes to angry fans. Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell had some thoughts on why Davis was contained and why fans can be so fickle with his greatness.
"I think a lot can go into that knowing that other players may step up or being in the position to take advantage of what he's dealing with," Russell said. "I mean, you got to realize teams come in here and try to take him out the game. So if they do a good job, which may happen sometimes, it forces other guys to step up and dictate what they... It helps them be a part of what they can control.
“So I mean, for him, I don't really know. I think it's just one of those nights that happens in this league a lot. Unfortunately, we just on TV every night so we all see it, but it happens to everybody."
So, was this just a bad loss on national television with a player dealing with a hip issue, or is this a lazy performance from a supposed star that proves he cannot be the guy for a title team night in and night out due to his inconsistencies?
As is often the case, the truth is not black and white but grey.
Yes, Davis can be better and should be better. Scoring isn't everything, but if you really are that guy you should at least score in double figures. Davis couldn't even manage that on 35 minutes of play. His co-star LeBron James, for example, has done that consecutively for 1,423 games and counting.
If Davis is truly that guy, then days off while playing aren't acceptable. No excuse, just produce.
And yet, he is a big. They can be schemed out and have trouble getting the ball in their spots. Add an ongoing injury to the mix and three games in four nights and perhaps some grace is deserved.
After all, hasn't Davis already proven who he is when it matters most? Didn't he raise a banner inside Crypto.com Arena? He owned the Grizzlies in the playoffs just last season and helped beat the reigning champion Golden State Warriors en route to a Western Conference Finals appearance.
With Davis, you see what you want to see. If you think he’s a dominant all-time player, there’s tape to back that up. If you want to say he’s a soft guy a bit overrated and James carries him, there’s tape for that too. And that’s why every game becomes an opportunity for either side to back up their claim depending on how Davis performs.
Personally, I think the good games from Davis far outweigh the bad.
So yes, tonight was a disappointing and frustrating performance, but maybe Davis' legacy shouldn't be on the line in November when he's proven what he can do in June.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.