NBA playoffs: Anthony Davis' status in question as Warriors force Game 6 with competitive stubbornness
SAN FRANCISCO — Anthony Davis walked carefully out of the Chase Center without talking to the media, looking straight ahead after taking an inadvertent shot to the head from Kevon Looney and opening the door to questions about his status for the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers’ playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.
An increasingly chippy series, it should be said. It hasn’t reached the point of disdain or contentiousness, but both sides are sensing the urgency of the moment — with the Warriors feeling the heat of possible elimination after dropping two straight games in Los Angeles.
The key figures with the Lakers seem optimistic Davis will be OK, but there seems to be a long way between now and Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals — 48 hours, almost exactly.
The Warriors staved off elimination — at least for a night, deciding they want one more tangle with the Lakers with a 121-106 Game 5 win Wednesday night. If the Lakers believed the Warriors were staggering and not wanting to give them any life, they took the appropriate approach compared to conceding in the Memphis series where they also led 3-1.
It turned out the Warriors are as competitively stubborn as advertised, and a lot more than a front-running, free-wheeling team they’ve been made out to be. They’ll have another opportunity to extend their streak of 28 series with at least one win on the road, and if they do, we’ll all be back at Chase for a heavenly seventh game Sunday afternoon.
They took a chunk out of the Lakers on Wednesday, with LeBron James playing 39 minutes and Davis 32 before exiting with 7:34 remaining in the fourth and the Lakers down 14.
Davis, who scored 23 with 9 rebounds, initially held his head and went slowly to the bench before going to the locker room area, as TNT reported he was placed in a wheelchair, giving speculation of perhaps suffering a concussion.
“I didn’t see the shot. I just seen the aftermath,” said James, who led the Lakers with 25 points and 9 rebounds. “But the medical team said he’s doing better. That’s what matters the most.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham didn’t give much information either, but there were certainly some long faces near the Lakers locker room as soon as the game ended. There’s no way to predict one way or the other, the type of hit he took. And the NBA, while having a concussion policy, doesn’t have as much experience as its counterpart, the NFL.
“Obviously, everyone saw he took a shot to the head, but we just checked in on him,” Ham said. “He seems to be doing really good already. That’s just where he’s at. That’s the status of it right now.”
Ham wouldn’t take any other questions on Davis, but was clearly annoyed at the Lakers taking 15 free throws after taking 20 in Game 4 and 37 in Game 3.
“I mean, we played the same way we always play,” Ham said. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s a foul anymore.”
Quietly, the platitudes and respect thrown both ways at the start of the series seems to have dissipated, with chippiness and sneering not too far behind.
“I’ve seen it way worse. But the more you play a team, the more stuff comes out,” Stephen Curry said. “And the power of this microphone and the gamesmanship back and forth. Like it’s all a part of it. Nothing that is surprising. Even from game to game. So, I mean, there’s respect, but there’s competition. And everything is catered to just trying to win four games. That’s what you expect, so, yeah.”
Steve Kerr’s beliefs about the Lakers’ so-called flopping seems to have stemmed from moving screen calls on his team, particularly Draymond Green.
But the way the comments have been presented and sent the Lakers’ way, it’s been interpreted as Kerr and the Warriors talking about the foul-line disparity in this series. The Lakers take the most free throws of anyone in the league, and the Warriors the least — so the numbers were bound to be unbalanced no matter the outcome.
The fires have been stoked, though, with the hot take machines being fired up on every corner, and it’s obscuring a pretty impressive chess match from both coaches.
The Warriors are no longer avoiding Davis and his shadowy presence on defense. They’re seemingly using his aggressiveness against him and it put Green and Andrew Wiggins on center stage.
Green was as aggressive on both ends as he’s been since Game 2, their other win in this series. Even though he was called for a foul defending Davis on the first possession, he never let up. It was his 15th career game scoring 20 points or more, and the Warriors are now 10-5 in those contests.
Kerr said Wiggins played his best game since his two-month personal leave, with Wiggins scoring 25 with 7 rebounds and 5 assists as Davis again was guarding him for long stretches.
“We ask so much of him defensively and in any series he’s going to end up on the opponent’s best player. That’s LeBron,” Kerr said. “The way [Wiggins] attacked, the way he got to the rim, it adds another dimension to our attack.”
Curry and Klay Thompson struggled from 3 again, but Thompson played strong defense on Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell, while Curry again played maestro with 8 assists to just 2 turnovers.
Curry scored 27, hit some big baskets in the fourth when the Lakers were attempting to make a game of it and helped close the second quarter with a buzzer-beating triple that put the Warriors up 11.
It probably wasn’t quite deflating to see the Lakers not folding up, especially since the Warriors have made a habit of letting double-digit leads slip away, but they probably needed a win like this to let them know they could take the game to this team physically.
“Aggressive on both sides of the floor, attacking,” Green said. “I think that was my mindset from the gate.
“Just how teams are keying on Steph and Klay, they’re selling out to those guys and trying to take them out the game. We get paid a lot of money to do this, so you can’t sit back and watch them.”
And you can’t let James dictate the terms of engagement either, even if he’s “slipped” to All-NBA third team, as it was announced hours before game time. Wiggins walked the delicate line of picking up James fullcourt while also giving him space to not open up driving lanes.
He knows James is a master of manipulation, the power of playing possum.
“I feel like you never really know,” Wiggins said. “You could think he’s tired and the next play he might come down and get a put-back dunk and you just never know.”
You never know with this Warriors team, either. Or with Davis on Friday, or how the rest of this series will shake itself out.
It feels like it should go seven games, but you never know.