The Lakers improved to 30-7 on the season with a 117-87 win over the Knicks on Tuesday, but the real victory was getting the news that the scary fall Anthony Davis took in the third quarter wasn't as bad as it looked. X-rays came back negative, per the team, as Davis was initially diagnosed with a sacral contusion, which is fancy way of saying bruised tailbone.
Thankfully for the Lakers, Davis' MRI reportedly LeBron James aren't both healthy and operating at maximum capacity come playoff time., and he's expected to travel with the Lakers on their upcoming two-game road trip to Dallas and Oklahoma City. In the meantime, this is a startling reminder that the Lakers' sparkly record and current No. 1 seed will ultimately mean nothing if Davis and
As such, expect the Lakers to slow play Davis' return, and perhaps even start to reduce LeBron's minutes, and exposure, as the season progresses. It goes without saying that these two shoulder an inordinately heavy load on a nightly basis. There have been only two games all season, in fact, in which either Davis or LeBron didn't lead the Lakers in scoring. They both came against the Clippers. They were both losses.
So far, the Lakers have not prioritized resting their stars. LeBron has missed just one game. Both he and Davis are top 20 in total minutes played. Consider this your obligatory reminder than LeBron is in his 17th season and just turned 35 years old. Obviously his production doesn't reflect as much, but he's got a million basketball miles on his body.
It begs the question: How important is the No. 1 seed to the Lakers? How important is their seed in general, for that matter? They would surely take a lower seed with a healthy LeBron and A.D. over a higher seed with a hobbled star. That balance is something every contending team tries to strike during the regular season.
But the Lakers are in an interesting spot in that if they end up playing the Clippers in the conference finals, or in any round of the playoffs, they'll be playing in Los Angeles, in their home arena, in front of all their fans, whether they have a higher or lower seed. Against any other team in the West, the Lakers are good enough to not have to worry about home-court advantage. It's the Clips that threaten them most, and they play in the same building.
At the end of the day, no team can afford to lose a star player. If Giannis goes down, the Bucks are going down with him. Same for James Harden and the Rockets, Joel Embiid and the 76ers, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers. Any one of those players goes down, and that team is not winning the championship. The Lakers are no different in that regard.
But they are different from the Clippers in the sense that they don't just need LeBron and Davis to be on the court, they need them to be dominant every single night. The Clippers have some leeway. Lou Williams can take a game over. They have a more rounded team with more depth. They have more ways of winning even if their stars are off for a game.
The Lakers, meanwhile, have no way of competing for a championship if LeBron and Davis aren't both operating at an extremely high level, not just winning their individual matchups but covering for everyone else, too. Without LeBron, the offense is completely sunk. With Davis, the defense is dead. The Lakers know this. But if they needed a little reminder to wake them up from the bliss of their early season swag, Tuesday night was it.
One awkward fall, and it can all be over.