LOS ANGELES – After the Lakers battled their free fall of the playoffs with a sixth loss on Sunday, Anthony Davis looked back on a missed season and reflected on what “could have been.”
“I think the biggest thing I personally think about is what we could have been like if we had stayed healthy all year,” said Davis, who missed 39 of LA’s 78 games due to several injuries. “What could we have been … Guys feel like, ‘OK, what could we have been if I had been healthy all year,'” [LeBron James] was healthy, [Kendrick] Nunn was healthy. ‘ You think about those things. We put this team together and it looked good on paper, but we did not have a chance to reach that potential with guys inside and outside the lineup.
“That’s the most frustrating part of this season is not being sure of what we could have been.”
The 129-118 loss of LA to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, along with the San Antonio Spurs ‘victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, increased the Spurs’ lead to the No. 1 spot. 10 seed and final play-in place in the Western Conference after two games with four games left. But because the Spurs have the tiebreaker by winning their season series against the Lakers, LA would actually have to win three games against the Spurs at the end of the season to capture San Antonio.
The Denver game was just Davis’ second game since mid-February due to a sprain of his right midfielder and the injury remained on, causing him to come down in the first quarter and receive treatment on the sidelines. As far as the chances of the Lakers catching the Spurs may seem, Davis promised to play through pain as the regular season ends with road games in Phoenix on Tuesday, Golden State on Thursday, Friday at home against Oklahoma City and a road final in Denver on Sunday.
“They said I could not get any worse,” Davis said of the Lakers’ medical staff. “Once I hear that, if I can not make it worse, then just go out and make sure the foot is comfortable enough to go out and play.”
James sat out Sunday with pain in his left ankle. A source familiar with James ‘status told ESPN that it was “unlikely” that James’ ankle would improve enough for him to play against the Suns, but warned that things could improve unexpectedly in the next 48 hours and allow him to to try.
Without James, LA made it to a game against the Nuggets until the fourth quarter, when reigning MVP Nikola Jokic scored 10 of his 38 points and defeated the Lakers 34-24.
“It’s shooting,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Sucks to tell these guys after every game,” I’m proud of you. Good effort. We lost. So, it’s not fun, but it could be worse. It’s easy to unravel. Our group has stayed together. They put up the good fight. Their attitude has been wonderful, in terms of just working together to make this thing good. And it’s just disappointing to come in and say we’re short. “
Russell Westbrook had an efficient game with 27 points on 11 for 15 shots, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals in the loss. It was his 77th appearance out of 78 games, giving one constant to a team that ran its 39th starting lineup of the season on Sunday.
The Spurs have road games in Denver on Tuesday and Minnesota on Thursday, followed by a home-road back-to-back hosting Golden State and going to Dallas on Saturday and Sunday.
“There are no moral victories in this league. Especially with us,” Davis said. “The whole world wants to see us lose, to be honest. But my job is to be on the floor and help these guys win and I think our spirit is very high in the locker room and we will continue to fight. “