Lakers lost Game 2 because of LeBron James and Anthony Davis – Fitnessnacks & Sports

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    The depth and culture the Los Angeles Lakers spent the last several months establishing have guided them to the Western Conference Finals. To advance past the Denver Nuggets, — “Level 3”, as they call it — they’re going to need LeBron James and Anthony Davis to be at their absolute best.

    The Lakers lost Game 2, 108-103, for a plethora of reasons. Their transition defense remains shockingly putrid. Jamal Murray went scorched-earth in the fourth quarter, when he piled on 23 of his 37 points — a chunk of which came via contested looks (the Lakers’ half-court defense was excellent). Nikola Jokic didn’t even play well and put up 23 points, 17 rebounds, and 12 assists. Fatigue was a factor. D’Angelo Russell was detrimental, once again. The Lakers took some unfortunate shots. A few calls didn’t go their way.

    “Overall, the energy was there, the effort was there, the urgency was there,” said Darvin Ham. “We just caught a bad stretch.”

    Above all else, the superstars underwhelmed. The Lakers have been able to withstand defense-first performances from Davis and pick-and-choose nights from LeBron thanks to the emergence of their role players — namely, Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura, who both eclipsed 20 points in Game 2. That’s all well and good, and the Lakers kept things close into the final minute of both games. And yet, they’re simply going to need their best players to land more powerful punches.

    In Game 1, Davis (40 points, 10 rebounds) essentially played Jokic (34/21/14) to a standstill, or at least close enough. LeBron had 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists but missed all four of his threes — including a befuddling pull-up in the final minute. Los Angeles dropped that game because their effort was admittedly substandard until the third quarter and the three-guard starting lineup backfired.

    Game 2 falls on LeBron and AD — specifically, their lackluster offensive output (they were strong on D). The Lakers aren’t going to topple a loaded, rolling Nuggets squad that never loses at home when their two all-time greats combine to score 20 fewer points than Jokic and Murray. LeBron missed several layups, twisted his left ankle, and looked gassed throughout the night in high altitude (as did everybody). He posted 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists, but shot 9-for-19 from the field and missed all six of his 3s. Bruce Brown easily stole the ball from him on the Lakers’ final possession. He blundered his signature dunk, a mistake he called “horrible.” Davis had 14 rebounds and 4 blocks but shot 4-for-15 and committed four turnovers. The Lakers are 2-6 in the 2023 NBA Playoffs when AD and LeBron combine to score 40 points or fewer, per ESPN.

    I’ve never seen LeBron James miss a wide open dunk and multiple wide open layups in a Playoff game. Anthony Davis was not much better and shot poorly the whole night. Both struggled from the field.

    — Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) May 19, 2023

    Beyond the box score, neither future Hall of Famer made a definable imprint on the game. LeBron neither controlled the action nor warped the floor to his liking. Davis wasn’t absentee, but it wasn’t one of those you-know-it-when-you-see-it performances when he hunts free throws and imposes his will.

    “I got the same looks,” said AD. “Lot of ’em were just short tonight. I’ll be better. … I gotta be better, more efficient to help the team win.”

    “This is not the NCAA tournament. It’s the first team to 4 wins… If we can get better from Game 2 like we did tonight to Game 3, then we’ll put ourselves in a position to do that.”

    LeBron James on the Lakers being in an 0-2 hole vs. the

    — ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 19, 2023

    The Nuggets have a lot to do with all of this. They’re motivated, huge, and potent. Getting to the NBA Finals is hard, especially as a No. 7 seed (it’s never happened).

    The Lakers’ supporting cast is improved but can only carry so many scenes. The onus on the stars becomes heavier with each successive round. If the Lakers are going to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole, LeBron and AD have to shine brighter. The question is, with both players consumed by the Joker and LeBron limited by a torn foot tendon, can they muster the juice?

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