By his standards, Anthony Davis was subpar prior to his MCL injury on Dec. 17.
He was with averaging 23.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.0 blocks through those first 27 games, but just couldn’t seem to assert himself in the game as the Lakers were still finding their on-court chemistry and rhythm having added superstar Russell Westbrook in the offseason.
He played a key role in the team’s 99-94 home win against the Trail Blazers, finishing with 30 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and two assists as the Lakers suited up for a fourth straight game without James.
More than the all-round numbers, it’s Davis’ play on the defensive end of the floor where he can positively impact the team the most. After letting up 37 points in the second quarter, the Lakers clamped down with AD as the anchor and only allowed 41 points in the second half.
“We want to make sure we become one of the top defensive teams like we’ve been the last couple years,” AD said postgame.
Over the last two seasons, the Lakers were ranked third (2019-20) and first (2020-21) in the league for defensive rating but that standard has slipped this season as the Lakers are ranked 17th. In the 17 games that Davis missed with the MCL injury, the team’s defensive rating was ranked 24th in the league.
It’s that end of the floor, along with his minimum 20-10 double-double, that AD can really spark the Lakers especially through stretches of games without LeBron James against non-contending teams. For example, in the five games since his return, they are already a Top-10 defence.
According to Tankathon, the team has the second-toughest schedule remaining but there are certainly winnable games on the schedule where the Lakers should be favoured to win just by the talent on their roster even if James isn’t playing.
In the six remaining games leading into the All-Star break, AD should be able to carry the Lakers past teams like the Clippers, Knicks, Trail Blazers and Jazz based on either talent or recent form.
On Wednesday night, he balled out even while he was not 100 percent. Imagine what he can do, once he is fully healthy.