CLEVELAND — After a run of nine games as arguably the hottest player in the NBA, Anthony Davis had the basketball world spellbound, wondering what he might do next.
Sadly for the Lakers, the follow-up to his 55-point game against the Washington Wizards on Sunday was short-lived: Davis left Tuesday’s game in Cleveland with flu-like symptoms (non-COVID illness), playing just eight minutes and scoring one point.
Coach Darvin Ham later acknowledged that Davis had a fever that climbed above 100 degrees, but the All-Star big man wanted to try to play through it. The Lakers had only listed him as probable before the game, but with back tightness – no mention of sickness.
“He just felt too weak, just too drained – dehydrated a little bit,” Ham said. “But it’s that time of the season, in terms of wintertime, weather change, change of climate, coming from L.A. going to these different places. We dealt with it earlier in the year, and he experienced it today. It set in earlier today and sorta worsened as the day went on.”
Instead of going to the team hotel, Davis remained at the arena and was treated with fluids, Ham said.
Losing Davis was a gut punch before the game had really gathered any steam, LeBron James acknowledged. Davis was the Western Conference Player of the Week, and averaged 35.3 points, 15.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots in his previous nine games.
“Next man up, but that’s a tall task,” James said. “Figuratively and literally for what A.D. has been doing for us over the last few weeks.”
Without Davis on the court, the Lakers struggled: Cleveland center Jarrett Allen scored 24 points, 22 of which were in the first half while making his first 10 attempts. Overall, the Cavaliers scored 70 points in the paint, breaking down the perimeter with dribble penetration from Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Caris LeVert.
Thomas Bryant had 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go with nine rebounds in 28 minutes, and the Lakers dusted off third center Damian Jones, who played about 12 minutes.
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“My hat’s off to our guys, man,” Ham said. “They competed their hearts out. That’s a huge blow, obviously. You mentioned the way he’s been playing here as of late. But they stayed the course and got through the first half pretty good and made it competitive in the third quarter – and the bottom just sorta fell out.”
Even going into the night, the Lakers were frightfully thin in the frontcourt after learning of an injury to Wenyen Gabriel. On the last play of their victory over the Wizards, Gabriel sprained his left shoulder reaching for a rebound.
When he was evaluated on Tuesday morning, the Lakers determined he’ll miss at least a week, and Ham said maybe two.
“It’s tough,” Ham added. “The kid’s really been helping us off the bench with his activity, his defense, his energy, running the floor, making plays, playing well in pick-and-roll.”
The Lakers play Wednesday on a short turnaround in Toronto. The team said Davis will be reevaluated for the game.