In a game that the Lakers lost by double digits to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, it’s hard to overstate how bad the team was in the non-Anthony Davis minutes. In the 35:10 he was on the court, the Lakers had a plus-minus of +6 in a game they lost by 17. It’s not too hard to do the math on the 12:50 he did not play as the team was outscored by 23 points.
It’s been the recurring trend in this series for the Lakers. In the 190 minutes he’s played, the Lakers are +38. In the 55 minutes he’s sat, the team is -33. It’s a problem that was apparent very early on in this series but it’s been on the team has not yet conquered.
Wednesday was perhaps the most exaggerated example of how bad things can go with Davis on the bench.
AD's time sitting (pre-bench emptying):— Cranjis McBasketball (@Tim_NBA) April 27, 2023
3:19 at the end of Q1 w/LA small: 13-4 MEM
3:21 to start Q2 w/Gabriel in: 5-4 MEM
1:29 towards end of Q3 w/LA small: 7-0 MEM
2:43 to start Q4 w/Gabriel in: 7-6 MEM
- 6:04 w/Gabriel: 12-10 MEM
- 4:48 small: 20-4 MEM
After the game, naturally, much of the discussion was about AD’s minutes and the Lakers performance during them and with him on the bench.
“Obviously Memphis knows,” Davis said. “They attack the paint more when I’m not in the game. Offensive rebounds, things like that... They went on that run to end the third, and it was kind of tough for us to recover after that... We’ve just got to be better and be ready for Friday.”
One of the natural inclinations is to play Davis more. AD has only cleared 40 minutes once in the postseason so far, that coming in the overtime win in Game 4. On Wednesday, Davis said he’s ready to play however many minutes are needed of him in Friday’s Game 6.
“I’ll play 48,” Davis said. “This is what you prepare the entire season for. Starting off low minutes and kind of working your way up through the course of the season to be able to play extended minutes in the playoffs to get victories. So if coach needs me to play 42, 45, 48 minutes or whatever to get the job done, I’ll be ready to do so.”
In the only other healthy playoff run Davis had with the Lakers in the bubble, his minute totals weren’t all that different. He’s averaging 38 minutes per game this postseason and averaged 36.6 in the bubble.
That, though, is skewed by him playing just 18 minutes in a first round game against Portland — and over the final 17 games of the postseason, he averaged 37.8 minutes per game which is more in line with the present day. In that run, he topped out at 43 minutes against Denver and 42 minutes in the Finals against the Heat.
Basically, he’s capable of playing heavy minutes and has done so. And the Lakers really might need him to in order to win.
But will his body allow him these playoffs? Davis’ hip has ailed him during this series and while it hasn’t stopped him from playing, it’s clearly irritated him during games.
“Hip is fine, felt fine tonight,” Davis said. “Just trying to get treatment around the clock to make sure that I’m able — well, I won’t say able to go, because I’m going to play regardless — but to where it’s feeling good, where I’m not in so much pain when I’m going out there and moving. I’m doing everything I can to make sure I’m able to play and be on the floor to help the team.”
The Lakers may require the most herculean effort from Davis yet to close out the Grizzlies and the series. It’s a tall ask but one you make of a franchise player like AD.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.