On Friday evening in New Orleans, the Lakers got a heavy dose of Anthony Davis, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft, who posted the following line:
Davis vs. LAL on Nov. 8: 32 points on 12 of 18 field goals and eight of 11 free throws; 12 rebounds; six blocks; three assists and one steal in 37 minutes.
“He’s very talented and he’s becoming the go-to guy for them,” said Steve Blake, who drained five threes towards 19 points against Minnesota. “He’s young and athletic, but there were times where we could have made adjustments and a lot of his baskets were out in the open floor where we turned the ball over. If we could have made him play in the half court more we would have been more successful.”
Davis outplayed Pau Gasol, who appeared fatigued on the second of a back-to-back after Thursday’s win at Houston, the Spaniard making only 3 of his 12 attempts. Gasol didn’t have his best game on Sunday against Minnesota, either, scoring 11 points with 11 rebounds in a second consecutive loss. He did, however, say he’s improving his conditioning, which has been behind this season after he took the summer off from basketball to rehabilitate from a procedure on both knees.
While the Davis-Gasol matchup will be in focus, the Lakers will need to play far better as a team than they did at New Orleans or against Minnesota. They did hold the Pelicans to 43.7 percent shooting in the 96-85 loss, but were outrun 27-19 in the fourth quarter. Coach Mike D’Antoni thought the effort was questionable from the outset.
“I thought we came out and we weren’t ready to play,” he said after the contest. “We didn’t play with intensity. In the beginning, we were behind. The second unit came out and gave us a nice burst, and the first unit did pretty good in the second half. Then at the end, we didn’t have it. We didn’t play with the right energy. They just outran us and outplayed us. We needed everybody to be present and they weren’t.”
Furthermore, L.A. has yet to establish a firm identity, still dealing with not only Kobe Bryant’s continued absence from his April surgery on his Achilles, but Steve Nash’s ongoing nerve issues related to his back, hamstring and hips. Since those two players are L.A.’s best playmakers when healthy, it’s been difficult for the team to establish a solid foundation.
“One thing we have to do is find our identity,” D’Antoni explained. “We don’t play slow or fast, we don’t do anything with a purpose and we’re trying to get that. We’re trying to clarify what playing hard means because sometimes I misconstrue that in the press.
“Being able to anticipate what’s happening, being mentally alert. They’re all trying but a lot of time they’re one step or two steps behind because we didn’t anticipate or get to a spot. We need to get there to be able to benefit from playing hard. It’s not a character issue, it’s a matter of an execution thing.”
As such, we may see another starting line up on Tuesday. Nash – who missed Friday’s game against New Orleans – will unlikely play. Whether the group of Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Chris Kaman and Gasol (who started on Friday) remain has yet to be announced.