PHOENIX — The Los Angeles Lakers took to the court on the campus of Arizona State University on Monday and teammates and coaching staff immediately noticed something different about Anthony Davis.
“He was pissed off,” a source told Yahoo Sports.
Usually, the star forward is one to lighten the mood with a smile or by sharing a laugh or two with teammates. It was the opposite. Sources with knowledge of that practice session said Davis walked into the gym deadpanned and voiceless, setting a tone and a vibe the team felt.
He blamed himself for the opening-series Game 1 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, saying it was on him for producing a subpar 13-point, 5-for-16 outing.
LeBron James is known for creating the atmosphere by the temperament he displays, particularly after a playoff loss. But James, who has been down 0-1 before in a first-round playoff series, was the individual in a light-hearted mood, sources said.
On this day, though, Davis was the team’s emotional leader.
Following practice, the team headed for the busses but Davis remained on the court getting work in.
Players yelled out “last bus,” which is a customary call around the league from players alerting teammates that’s it’s time to go and you could possibly get left behind.
Sources said Davis replied, “I’m not leaving until I get this s*** right.” And he continued shooting.
Due to health and safety protocols, teams are required to ride in three to four busses to and from practices and games.
The Lakers were then forced to carry the team back to their hotel on three busses, leaving an entire bus for Davis and a few Lakers staff members, sources said. He worked out for an extra hour after practice before calling it a day.
It paid off, because that extra work ignited the team and it carried into Game 2 as Davis registered a game-high 34 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks in a 109-102 victory over the Suns Tuesday night to even the series at 1-1.
“We knew AD was locked in and we expected this performance,” Lakers forward Jared Dudley told Yahoo Sports last night. “You could see it in him these last few days.”
James added 23 points, nine assists, four rebounds, and big timely fourth-quarter baskets. The four-time NBA champion gave insight into the mindset of a “pissed off” Davis.
“He’s not a guy who talks about it, he’s about it and he goes out and does it,” James said of Davis postgame. “So, give him the ball early, often and always.”
Devin Booker led the Suns with 31 points and Deandre Ayton contributed a double-double of 22 points and 10 boards. But the concern remains Chris Paul and the bruised right shoulder he sustained in Game 1.
The star guard played 22 minutes, scoring six points on 2-for-5 shooting to go with five assists. He still doesn’t have full range of motion on his shot and passes.
Paul met with Suns head coach Monty Williams prior to Game 2 and said he was giving it a go. However, Williams informed Paul that he’d be monitored all game and wouldn’t hesitate to remove him from the action if the team noticed he was in too much pain.
And that’s exactly what took place. Paul was pulled from the game in the final seven minutes.
“Just looking at him holding his arm the way he was holding it, I just couldn’t watch him run like that,” Williams said. “He was trying to make plays. He battled. He’s a warrior. We all know that. I just made a decision to take him out.”
Paul will continue receiving treatment around the clock leading up to Game 3 on Thursday in Los Angeles.
With a rejuvenated Davis and a wounded Paul, the series is shifting locations at the wrong time for Phoenix. But this young Suns group has faced adversity well and proven to be coming of age.
This series is far from over.
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