DALLAS — The Los Angeles Lakers‘ Christmas Day took a turn for the worse after halftime, with the Mavericks blitzing L.A. in the third quarter to win 124-115, L.A.’s fourth straight loss without Anthony Davis.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham has continued to start the 6-1 Patrick Beverley alongside the 6-1 Dennis Schroder in the backcourt since the 6-10 Davis was sidelined with a stress injury in his right foot just more than a week ago. Ham even played a lineup featuring the 6-3 Russell Westbrook at center on Sunday.
After the loss, the fourth straight in which L.A. allowed its opponent to score 124 points or more, he was asked about the challenge of making up for Davis’ absence with the rest of the roster.
“You throw everything up against the wall and see what sticks, ” Ham explained. “It’s one of those types of situations. AD’s not here, not in the lineup. We’re not going to start using that as an excuse. Hell yeah, it’s a big hole in our lineup. But now, we’re pros. We’ve got to step up.”
LeBron James, who led all scorers with 38 points on 13-for-23 shooting, offered a stark assessment of the Lakers’ options without Davis, however.
“Reality is, without AD, we lose a lot of length which we don’t have already,” James said. “So we have to make up in ways that, without AD, is very difficult, very challenging. So, I think at one point we had a lineup of I think [Austin Reaves] was the tallest guy on the court.
“So, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out [that Davis is sorely missed].”
Ham has maintained a public-facing confidence since Davis went out, repeating after every loss that every player and coach just has to do a little bit more to get L.A. back on track while it adjusts to life without its All-Star big man.
It’s been a similar tact to the tone Ham took when L.A. started the season 2-10 and won eight of their next 10 from there, exuding positivity even when the challenge seemed insurmountable.
But James, who voiced similar concerns after the Lakers’ loss in Sacramento earlier this week when being blunt about the team’s roster construction, offered the glass half empty outlook to L.A.’s current predicament to counterbalance Ham’s silver lining.
“I think I look at it that way,” James said, when asked if the Lakers’ proven resiliency gives him belief in their ability to right the ship. “I look at it the other way too, like, how many times are you going to try to dig yourselves out until it’s too much dirt on you?”
The subtext to James’ suggestion that L.A. might not have enough on its current roster to be resilient enough to right the ship without Davis, of course, is that a move by the Lakers’ front office could also help with that effort.
Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager, Rob Pelinka, acknowledged at the team’s annual media day in September that finding trades to improve the team was his responsibility.
“If we have to continue to upgrade our roster throughout the season, we will,” Pelinka said. “That’s what the trade deadline is for and other things.”
The loss, in which Dallas outscored L.A. 51-21 in the third quarter, spoiled another historic achievement in James’ Hall of Fame-bound career. It was the 17th Christmas Day game in his 20 seasons in the league, breaking a tie with the late Lakers great, Kobe Bryant, for the most in NBA history.
“At the end of the day, I love to play the game of basketball,” James said. “I’m still enjoying going out there and playing in front of fans, either at home or on the road. And I’m just trying to control what I can control. I show up, try to lead these guys and try to lead to victories and obviously there’s been times when it’s been frustrating. There’s been times that I’ve been happy. There’s been times where I’ve been like, ‘OK, we can do better here,’ or whatever the case may be. But I always try to stay even keeled.”