The LA Lakers squandered the chance to secure a commanding series lead over the Phoenix Suns in Game 4. The focus after the loss lies squarely on Anthony Davis‘ health again. The star forward’s latest ailment could potentially end the Lakers‘ chances of another serious NBA title bid.
Lakers fall in Game 4 to the Suns
The Lakers entered Game 4 with an opportunity to grab a commanding 3-1 series lead, but the Suns answered the bell.
LA took early control, grabbing an 11-point lead in the second quarter. However, Phoenix stormed back to take a four-point halftime lead. Davis suffered a groin injury late in the period and didn’t play in the second half.
The Suns further expanded the lead to a comfortable margin while holding the Lakers to 39.5% shooting from the floor, 32.5% from 3-point range, and forced 16 turnovers. After the contest, the focus centered on Davis’ latest injury.
Anthony Davis’ injury may sink the Lakers’ NBA title hopes
Beyond the Game 4 loss, the Lakers suffered a significant blow after Davis’ latest injury.
Davis went down late in the final minute of the second quarter after a physical drive to the basket. He remained in the game to finish the first half but was ruled out for the final two quarters.
His absence allowed the Suns to dictate the flow and gut out a defensive battle win. He finished with six points on 2-of-9 shooting, including 0-of-3 from 3-point range in 19 minutes.
After the game, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel confirmed Davis suffered a left groin strain and was undergoing additional tests. The star forward entered the contest hampered by a left knee sprain that nearly forced him to sit out.
It marks yet another injury that the 28-year-old has had to overcome this season, but this time could be the biggest hurdle given the timing.
Depending on the severity of the ailment, it can force Davis to miss an extended stretch beyond a game or two. Since he returned from his two-month absence due to his calf injury, the Lakers have operated mindfully, avoiding any setbacks.
Without Davis, the Lakers face a steep uphill battle against the Suns and a much greater challenge if they reach the Western Conference semifinals. Since his arrival to LA, he’s been the offensive focal point and defensive anchor.
All that makes it hard to envision the Lakers, even with James leading the charge, competing for an NBA championship.
Lakers must be ready to adjust moving forward
As Davis undergoes additional tests to determine the extent of his groin injury, it forces the Lakers to adjust without him.
LA heads into Game 5 with an opportunity to grab a 3-2 lead to secure the chance to finish the series on Thursday night at Staples Center. With Davis presumptively sidelined for Tuesday’s contest, James voiced that the team will embrace the “next man up” approach.
“Next man up,” James said via Mark Medina of USA TODAY Sports. “Obviously if he’s not available, it’s a huge blow for our ball club. But it’s next man up.”
With Davis out, expect Kyle Kuzma to move into the starting lineup, while Montrezl Harrell could see an increased role. Kuzma has struggled in the playoffs averaging 5.3 points on 24.1% shooting from the floor and 18.6% from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, Harrell’s role continues to fluctuate as he’s played in only two games against the Suns, averaging 6.0 points on 40% shooting in 10 minutes per contest. He went scoreless in five minutes in the Game 4 loss.
James will also take an increased offensive role to help fill the massive void. The four-time league MVP holds the pressure to help the Lakers to right the ship with Davis likely out again.