LOS ANGELES — At this point of the year, Lakers forward Anthony Davis has maintained he has stayed off social media.
He professes he has not monitored the tweets. Nor has he seen the Instagram posts. Nor has he read the articles. Instead, Davis has vowed that he has solely focused on his game in hopes to deliver the Lakers their second NBA championship in four years.
But even if Davis has consolidated contact with just his coaches, teammates and what he calls his “inner circle,” one unnamed teammate brought up something that has become a topic among Lakers fans recently. How can Davis look dramatically so different game-to-game?
How can Davis dominate in the Lakers’ 127-97 win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday at Crypto.com Arena only two days after struggling in the Lakers’ Game 2 loss to the Warriors in San Francisco? How can Davis look so sluggish in that contest when he looked nearly unstoppable two days earlier in the Lakers’ Game 1 road win over the Warriors? Davis’ response to his teammate? He simply chalked it up as the product of “a make-or-miss league.”
“The same shots I had in Game 1, I had in Game 2. I made them in Game 1. I missed them in Game 2,” Davis said. “The same shots I had in Game 2, I had in Game 3. I missed them in Game 2, and I made them in Game 3.”
Davis surely has nailed down the chronology. In Game 1, Davis finished with 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting and 23 rebounds. He went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line. And he added five assists and four blocks. In Game 2, Davis had only 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting and seven rebounds. He took zero foul shots. And he committed nearly as many turnovers (four) as assists (four) and blocks (three). In Game 3, Davis added 25 points on a 7-for-10 clip. He made 11 of his 12 foul shots. And he added four blocks, three steals and three assists.
Davis whiffed, though, on his explanation for why his box scores have fluctuated as erratically as the stock market.
“I look at it as I missed shots,” Davis said. “I didn’t do anything differently. I didn’t change anything up.”
The circumstances and the eye test suggest otherwise.
The circumstances? Davis scored more points in Games 1 and 3 partly because he made more trips to the free-throw line. In both games, Warriors forward Draymond Green became limited with foul trouble and became increasingly frustrated with the whistles. In Game 2, Davis didn’t go to the free-throw line while Green managed to defend aggressively without the officials penalizing him for it.
The eye test? No doubt, Davis varied his shots at the rim and from the post in all three games. But he approached the game much differently in Games 1 and 3 than he did in Game 2. He showed more aggressiveness with his drives to the basket. He appeared more in rhythm with his outside shots. And he became more assertive with establishing position to receive the ball in the first place.
“I try to go out and compete to the best of my ability every night to help the team win,” Davis said. “Sometimes, it doesn’t work out that way when we win. I know, especially at this time of the year, I leave it on the floor. That’s all I can do.”
No doubt, Davis has always tried through both good and bad performances. The Lakers have enjoyed that impact most notably on the defensive end of the floor. After all, Lakers coach Darvin Ham has described Davis as “the catalyst” and “the anchor” to a team that became among the NBA’s leaders in various defensive categories following the trade deadline. That partly explains why the Warriors finished Game 3 with poor marks from the field (39.6%) and from 3-point range (29.5%) while lacking discipline with their ball handling (19 turnovers).
But Davis’ good intentions doesn’t consistently determine whether he thrives or struggles. Davis has shown passivity when opponents overload on him. Davis has shown frustration when he misses shots. And Davis has shown ineffectiveness when teammates don’t consistently pass him the ball.
“He’s done a pheromonal job whenever he’s out there,” Ham contended.
Maybe so. The Lakers have seen him improve in this area in recent months. It helps the Lakers made moves before the trade deadline to improve the team’s outside shooting and spacing, two areas that have helped Davis become more consistent. But as much as Davis became a critical reason for the Lakers’ late-season success and for securing a 2-1 series lead against the Warriors, that doesn’t necessarily foreshadow that Davis will replicate that same approach when the Lakers host Game 4 against the defending NBA champions on Monday.
“We can talk coverages, adjustments and all of that. But the basic foundation of us executing anything is our approach – our energy, our execution and our urgency,” Ham said. “If you have a ton of energy, you’re competitive and competing as a group individually as a man and to a group, things usually work themselves out.”
To be clear, Ham spoke in general terms about his team’s approach. He may as well have been talking about Davis, though. He may have placated concerns among Laker fans about his durability and ability to fight through injuries. He has yet to assuage uneasiness about his up-and-down performances.
It seems unfair to expect Davis to lead the team in scoring in every game. It seems incredibly unrealistic to think Davis should set records in every game that only the NBA’s top other big men past and present have accomplished. But it seems fair to expect Davis to have a positively significant impact in every game.
Until that happens, then expect teammates to ask Davis more about his fluctuating box scores even if he cuts off social media and limits his inner circle at this time of the year.