First things first.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said Thursday that Anthony Davis did not have a concussion, that the eight-time All-Star big man is not in the NBA’s protocol, that he’s “feeling great” and “not showing any signs of anything” and will be listed as probable to play in Game 6 of their second-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on Friday night at Crypto.com Arena.
The collective sigh of relief all across Lakerland was real. Very real.
“It’s huge,” Ham said of the news from the Lakers’ medical staff that Davis did not suffer a concussion when he was struck in the head late in the Lakers’ 121-106 loss in Game 5 on Wednesday. “You know, he’s the centerpiece of what we’re trying to do on both sides of the ball and, for us, just in general and our success rate.
“So, that was great, great news.”
After all, Davis is averaging 21.5 points on 52.9% shooting plus 13.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.5 blocked shots in 11 playoff games overall. He has averaged 22.4 points on 58.1% shooting plus 13.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.2 blocks in the five games against the Warriors so far.
Ham declined to respond to harsh criticism from some league observers who questioned the severity of Davis’ injury, including TNT’s studio crew and ESPN’s morning chat shows. Davis grabbed his head and was doubled over in obvious pain after Kevon Looney accidentally struck him.
Davis was wobbly as he walked back to the Lakers’ bench, where he continued to grab at his head, grimacing. He was later taken to the locker room via a wheelchair for precautionary reasons, according to the Lakers. He was the last player to leave the locker room after the Lakers’ 121-106 loss, walking slowly but without the assistance of anyone.
“My only reaction was just to make sure that he was safe, he was well, he was OK,” Ham said during a video conference call on Thursday. “Now that I’ve been given that information, we move on and try to figure out how we can get a win here (Friday) night. All that other stuff is meaningless.”
Ham said LeBron James was fine after it appeared he tweaked his ankle or foot in Game 5. James led the Lakers with 25 points on 9-for-17 shooting with nine rebounds and three assists, but he never shifted into the dominant mode that could aid his teammates as they attempted to rally late in the game.
“I mean, the same thing we need from every other player,” Ham said when asked what the Lakers need from James to win in Game 6. “Just to come in locked in. Again, we (the coaching staff) are going to do our part, right? We’re going to give them (the players) the information that they need. We’re going to go back and show them the different ways that we can be better.”
Ham stressed the Lakers’ need for energy, effort and urgency.
The Warriors, facing elimination and the potential conclusion to a dynasty that produced four NBA championships and six NBA Finals appearances since 2015, had the energy, effort and urgency to defeat the Lakers in Game 5 in San Francisco and set up a second must-win game Friday in Game 6 in Los Angeles, where the Lakers have not lost a home game since late March (8-0).
The Lakers trailed by as many as 12 points in the first quarter on Wednesday, led briefly in the second before fading in the third and the fourth. They narrowed their deficit to 104-95 after Austin Reaves’ 3-pointer with 5:25 remaining in the game, but their rally fizzled without Davis, sidelined for the game’s final 7:34.
By the end of the night, James, Davis (23 points), Reaves and D’Angelo Russell (15 points each) and Dennis Schroder (14 points) scored in double figures. But no one else among the 13 Lakers who played in the game scored more than four points, a decided lack of depth in such a pivotal game.
“Energy, effort and urgency – that’s what this time of year, this point in the series (is all about) – whoever has that the most consistent team in having those three elements usually will be the successor,” Ham said. “We have a great, deep ballclub and I know they feel terrible about what happened (in Game 5). We’ve done a great job responding throughout adversity, and so I don’t expect (Game 6) to be any different.”
As expected, given the fact that this is the first playoff series between the Lakers and Warriors in more than three decades and perhaps one of the last postseason meetings between future Hall of Famers Steph Curry and James, interest has been high across the known basketball universe. Game 5 on TNT averaged 7.5 million viewers, the most-watched program on TV for all of Wednesday.
The network’s telecast topped CNN’s live town hall event with former president Donald Trump, which peaked at 3.3 million viewers and started about two hours before the game. Game 5 also was the highest-watched second-round Game 5 in 11 years, according to TNT’s parent Warner Bros. Discovery Sports.
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