LOS ANGELES – The Lakers’ injury-prone star hunched over as he grabbed his right hip. But Anthony Davis still played.
He spent one timeout lying on his left side on the bench. But Davis still competed.
He struggled all game with finding consistency with his scoring and his defense. But Davis still made winning plays.
The Lakers’ success usually hinges on how well Davis can dominate. But in the Lakers’ 117-111 overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 4 of their first-round series, it partly hinged on how well Davis can show resiliency.
“I’m all about getting wins, no matter how I do it or we do it,” Davis said. “Things aren’t always going to be perfect. Sometimes you have to win ugly. Sometimes you don’t play well, but you still try to have an imprint on the game.”
Some of Davis’ imprint on the game looked ugly. He had 12 points on only 4-for-13 shooting. He repeatedly looked in pain as he clutched his right hip, an injury that he said has bothered him for the past 1 ½ weeks. And the Lakers arguably absorbed such a performance because others mitigated it.
LeBron James had 22 points and a career-high 20 rebounds. Austin Reaves had a team-leading 23 points on 7-for-16 shooting. D’Angelo Russell added 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting, including three consecutive 3s late in the fourth quarter that led Lakers coach Darvin Ham to argue, “if D-Lo doesn’t play the way he plays, we don’t win this game.”
Nonetheless, Davis still showed his value while playing hurt, even if it lacked what the Lakers normally need from their second-best player. He added 11 rebounds, four blocks, two steals and plenty of intangibles in 42 minutes.
With the game tied at 104 with .8 seconds left in regulation, Davis blocked Ja Morant’s 21-foot jumper. Davis made a layup on the first play of overtime to give the Lakers a 106-104 with 4:39 remaining. On the next play, Davis rebounded Desmond Bane’s missed 3 to set up James for a layup. Two plays after splitting a pair of foul shots, Davis then tapped in a shot off Reaves’ missed layup for a 111-108 cushion with 1:10 left.
“There was no way I was coming out,” Davis said. “I just tried to give what I could to the team. I’ll be fine.”
Davis might be overstating his pain. Ham said the medical staff relayed that Davis’ right hip “is definitely hurting” and that he has received “constant around-the-clock treatment.” Davis has little recovery time since the Lakers travel to Memphis on Tuesday before playing the Grizzlies in Game 5 on Wednesday (4:30 pm PT, TNT).
Yet, Davis expressed optimism the right hip will “calm down and get back to normal” should the Lakers close out their first-round series against Memphis in Game 5. While the Lakers hold a 3-1 series lead, the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings will play their first-round series through at least Game 6 on Friday. To ensure that longer recovery time, Davis fought through the pain in Game 4.
“He was a dog,” said Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who added 15 points and six rebounds. “We knew he didn’t really feel it all the way tonight. But he fought through it.”
Granted, Davis still showed some poor moments. On one play, Davis struggled up posting up on Bane. On another, Davis called for the ball nearly 20 feet from the basket. On another, Davis coughed up a turnover that led to a clear-path foul. He initially had four points on only 1-for-8 shooting.
“When we have an assertive and aggressive AD, things usually turn out well for us,” Ham said. “He can’t be passive in any facet of the game on both sides of the ball.”
After wearing a heating pad to treat his right hip before the fourth quarter, Davis appeared more aggressive. By then, Davis reminded himself of the “next-play mentality” that Ham has preached to him all season. Davis also reminded himself on what made him play effectively during the Lakers’ NBA title run three years ago in the bubble. That message: “You always want to play well, but things don’t always go that way.”
Therefore, Davis focused his efforts on the glass, on defending and on setting screens to make up for his poor shooting. He ignoring the pain that he felt to make up for his physical limitations.
“I kept fighting it and kept playing, no matter what knowing at any moment, you can make a shot,” Davis said. “At any moment, you can make a play with the way the game is going and help the team win.”
Mark Medina covers the NBA for The Sporting Tribune. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.