Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis feasts as tougher schedule approaches

(Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
(Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images) /

With a daunting schedule facing the Los Angeles Lakers, it is good to see Anthony Davis playing as well as he is.

Some win streaks, including ones by the Los Angeles Lakers, must eventually come to an end. For the Lakers, getting a taste of early success is all they could ask for as the month of December marks a tougher road ahead.

Between the slow starts, offensive outbursts, lack of ball movement, and menacing defensive sequences, the Lakers rarely miss their mark.

If the win against the New Orleans Pelicans signifies the Lakers’ resiliency throughout a tremendous run in November, their 114-100 loss to the Dallas Mavericks exhibited the eventual fatigue that comes with trying to maintain a lengthy win streak.

Luka Doncic was having one of his worst halves of the season, and by halftime, the Lakers 11th straight victory was still a possibility. The 2nd half told a different story, as Doncic started to heat up, continuing an MVP campaign in only his 2nd season in the NBA.

Success in the 3rd quarter has been the Lakers’ staple this season, and Sunday afternoon, they entered that frame leading by three. They were down by 15 points not too much longer after that.

Anthony Davis chipped in when the game was still within reach and LeBron James poured in 25 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, but the Lakers’ 3-point shooting woes hurt the team. Shooting 25.9% from beyond the arc, the Lakers’ cold shooting was a direct result of the Mavericks’ zone defense.

The Lakers’ domination in November was met with resistance to the previous five games. The team’s average scoring margin is 8.2 points but dropped to just 4.0 points in their last three games. A 10-game win streak looks commanding, but the mental and physical demands of winning could make even the most competitive players take a couple plays — or an entire half — off.

Fans have gotten comfortable watching the Lakers grind out wins, but there are going to be instances where it’s not their night. Davis understands how important it is for the team to recapture its focus for the next contest:

"We don’t want to lose two in a row. Ever. So there’s definitely gonna be a bounce back game. We want make sure that we correct everything that we did poorly tonight.”"

Prior to James’ groin injury last year, the Lakers’ were 4th in the Western Conference. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart rallied around their fallen leader and routed the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, delivering fans in the Bay Area some unexpected coal on Christmas Day.

Those Lakers could hang with most NBA teams but couldn’t quite close out games. These issues weren’t questions of the mental acuity of the baby Lakers, more so than the reality was of their inexperience and the uncomfortable nature of their roles on the team.

With Davis now paired amongst seasoned veterans, the Lakers have a sense of identity while finding ways to close out games. This was the issue with Ball, Ingram, and Hart last season, as a nice comeback win against those same players last week was a pure example of how important it was for the Lakers to get Davis this offseason.

The Lakers’ ability to crack down on teams at will is part of the reason for the stockpiling of wins. This season’s success is a welcomed early holiday present for Los Angeles.

Post-Thanksgiving, Lakers’ fans are counting their blessings. Prior to this season, the Lakers’ collective record by Thanksgiving the past six seasons was 39-58. 20 games in, the Lakers’ 17-3 record is 2nd best in the NBA, a far cry from the previous ghastly records of holiday’s past.

The Lakers also find themselves thankful for the NBA’s scheduling formula for a less demanding start to the organization’s 60th season. After losing the opening game to the LA Clippers, the Lakers have won 17 of 20 games, yet only four of those victories were against teams with a .500 record or better.

As the wins piled up, head coach Frank Vogel continued to earn his respect around the league by being named Western Conference Coach of the Month, leading his team to one of their best starts in the organization’s history.

Coach Vogel mentioned his players’ complaints about the officiating after their loss to the Mavericks.

The Los Angeles Times’ Tania Ganguli addressed Davis’ concern over being distracted by the officials:

"We attacked the basket and didn’t get a couple calls and ended up complaining to the refs and they would run out the other way scoring."

This second contest with the Mavericks should put the Lakers on notice as a potential meeting in the playoffs will ramp up in intensity. Vogel vouches for his players saying,

"I believe in our guys. “If we play to our abilities, there’s nobody we can’t beat and nowhere we can’t get a W. So, we got to make sure that we respond from this and bounce back."

The strides the Lakers have made defensively are sometimes overshadowed by sluggish starts to games. As the old adage goes, “old habits die-hard”, and if the Lakers lack focus in the coming weeks, the coaching staff will be singing a much different tune this holiday season.

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Whether or not you fall on the side that demands James and Davis to be load managed, the time for that has come and gone. The next quarter of the season begins on a 3-game road trip as the Lakers fly to Denver to play the Nuggets Tuesday night.

Anthony Davis’ averaged 25.3 points per game for November. LeBron James stated that one of the top priorities for this year was to run the offense through Davis, and this will need to continue in the weeks ahead.

Davis’ consistent dominant play will be expected, but the uptick in production from the supporting cast must improve to keep opponents guessing.

Dominant performances from Davis and nights that include James’ achieving career milestones aren’t always going to steal the show, especially against better opponents.

Regardless, the Lakers have taken full advantage of a weaker schedule, boasting two lengthy win streaks. The Lakers’ next 20 games will be against stiffer competition. Eight of their first 10 games in December will be on the road, and 11 of those games will be against teams with winning records.

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In past years, teams in the playoff hunt looked to gather enough wins to avoid playing higher seeds in the playoffs like the Warriors. The Lakers now see themselves sitting atop the Western Conference with teams likely trying to avoid them.