In a largely quiet Lakers locker room late Wednesday night, the biggest concern was the status of Anthony Davis and his availability for Friday’s final game 6 against the Golden State Warriors at the Crypto.com Arena.
Davis had left the game with 7 minutes and 34 seconds remaining at the Chase Center. He had been hit in the side of his head by an accidental elbow from Warriors forward Kevon Looney as they battled for rebound position while D’Angelo Russell scored on a layup. Davis fell his head on the court. He got up and sat on the Lakers bench, but eventually went to the locker room and never returned.
The Lakers were 14 behind at that point and moving on lose 121-106but they still have a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference best-of-seven semifinals series and can knock the reigning NBA champion Warriors out of the playoffs with a home win Friday night.
That will be the main focus for the Lakers – with or without Davis.
“We still have a chance” Lebron James said about the approach the Lakers need to take. “Obviously they played exceptionally well tonight and we had some good moments but not as close to 48 minutes as needed but we have another chance on Friday and we’re looking forward to the clash again.”
The Lakers followed the same path in the first round against the Memphis Grizzlies and needed to win Game 6 at home, which they did in a sticky way.
But the Warriors are a completely different team.
They have the all-time NBA marksman in Stephen Curry, who had 27 points and eight assists in Game 5. They have champions Klay Thompson (10 points) and Draymond Green (20 points and 10 rebounds).
These three, along with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, form the core of Golden State’s championship group and will not be an easy feat.
“Every moment is its own challenge and its own game and its own opportunity to see what you’re made of and we can’t build the last series on this series,” said James. “This series is different. The opponent is different. The challenges are different.
“Friday is another opportunity for us to see where we are, to see what we’re made of, and to step out with, I appreciate, the courage and struggle that we’ve had since we got together after the All-Star break “It’s a very resilient side and we react well to adversity and we look forward to getting the opportunity to play again on Friday.”
The Lakers played at Crypto.com Arena when it mattered most.
They defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA’s play-in game at home. They’ve beaten the Grizzlies at home all three times. They defeated the Warriors in Games 3 and 4.
Now the Lakers have a chance to extend their winning streak to 7-0 in front of their fans in the most critical part of the season.
“Well we didn’t do our business tonight so I’m looking forward to seeing our fans at another game in the second round,” said James. “You know, these games are out the window. It’s over and done. Our task is to try to be 1-0 on Friday. I look forward to this opportunity.”
When the Lakers played Memphis in Game 6, they said the approach was to consider it a Game 7 because they didn’t want to return to Memphis.
It worked because the Lakers won by 40 points.
James was asked after scoring 25 points and 9 rebounds: Will that be the mentality for Game 6 against the Warriors?
“Yes, it’s the same,” James replied. “It is the same.”
For the Lakers, that means winning Game 6 or coming back here for Game 7 on Sunday.