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With LeBron James out, Anthony Davis blames himself for Lakers’ loss to Jazz

In Sports
January 14, 2024
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, and Utah Jazz forward John Collins.

LeBron James sat at the end of the Lakers’ bench with a hoodie covering his head, pain in his left ankle not allowing him to play against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, just the fourth game he has missed this season.

It meant the struggling Lakers had to push forward against a surging Jazz team that was riding a four-game winning streak and had won eight of its last 10 games.

In the eyes of Anthony Davis, it meant he had to be dominant for the Lakers with James sidelined. But he was not the force he wanted to be, and Davis took the blame for the Lakers’ 132-125 loss to the Jazz.

Even after posting the second triple-double of his career with 15 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high 11 assists, Davis was not happy. He had been double teamed most of the night by the Jazz, who limited Davis to five-for-21 shooting from the field. He had four blocks, but he also had six of the Lakers’ 12 turnovers.

Read more: Elliott: For Lakers, brutal loss to Suns magnifies bigger issues that don’t have an easy fix

“Everyone did their job except me. I didn’t do my job,” Davis said in a low voice. “Obviously, Bron was out and everyone has to step up and those guys did. Except myself. So this one’s on me.”

The player starting in place of James, D’Angelo Russell, had to fill a major void. Russell had been removed from the lineup 10 games ago, no longer in a revamped starting five Lakers coach Darvin Ham had hoped would get his team moving in the right direction.

Russell was outstanding for the Lakers, scoring a season-high 39 points and handing out eight assists. He was 15 for 26 from the field and six for 11 from three-point range.

“I mean, it’s just fun. Just hoopin’, as simple as that,” Russell said. “They had some coverages that tried to take AD out the game, allowed us to play off the catch-and-attack closeouts all game. We missed some. We made some. I thought we had a lot of good looks. Just try to take this aggression and add it to the next game.”

Rui Hachimura, who had sat out the last five games because of a strained left calf, returned to the court. Apparently, the procedure he had to repair a nasal fracture had healed enough during the time he was out because Hachimura didn’t wear a protective mask against the Jazz. He had 17 points in 18 minutes, 42 seconds of playing time.

By halftime, however, the Lakers had lost another player when Cam Reddish was unable to continue in the second half because of left knee soreness. Max Christie took Reddish’s place.

The game turned on the Lakers in the second half, when their 12-point lead dissolved with the Jazz going 28 for 31 from the free-throw line over the final 24 minutes.

“I was looking back at our replay guys that usually give me the signal whether or not we want to challenge,” Ham said. “And they were all telling me in unison not to challenge a bunch of those calls. So apparently we must have been fouling,” Ham said. “But my vantage point, I just think it’s a slippery slope. Because then the same thing happens on the other end, then there’s no call.

“And now you’re kinda … we say mental toughness, you got to have mental toughness. You have to be able to play through adversity. And a lot of times when that whistle gets active like that, [it] creates a lot of adversity. But that said, I thought we played two-thirds of a good, really good basketball game, three-fourths, whatever you want to say. And then we just … the fouls got away from us.”

The Lakers (19-21) have the same record after 40 games this season that they had at this point last season. The difference is last season they were on a five-game winning streak. This season they have lost 12 of their last 17 and are 11th in the Western Conference.

I don’t remember last year at the 40-game mark,” Davis said. “But I think for us right now, we’re not in a bad spot. It could be worse. Just our injuries just piled up over and over. As soon as we think we get a couple guys back, guys go down.

“So that’s the toughest thing, but we still have enough to win basketball games. Even though Bron doesn’t play, we have enough to win. But we just got to keep going — 40 games, 42 left. We got to make a push. These next five or six games at home are going to be a big stretch of games for us.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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