The Los Angeles Lakers heavily rely on Anthony Davis for their success on the basketball court. His dominance in the paint has been a key factor in their victories, with the team ranking sixth in the NBA in paint points this season. They have built their game plan around Davis, attempting the fourth-most shots in the restricted area and leading the league in free throws. Furthermore, the Lakers boast the top-ranked defense in the postseason, largely due to Davis’ ability to protect the paint.
However, the Lakers have limited alternatives when Davis is unavailable. They have seldom used a backup center during the playoffs, with Wenyen Gabriel seeing minimal playing time. In the absence of Davis, the Lakers have resorted to playing small, with LeBron James and Rui Hachimura taking turns at the center position. Unfortunately, this approach hasn’t yielded favorable results. In the 130 minutes that Davis has been off the court during the playoffs, the Lakers have been outscored by 18 points. Playing a full game without Davis poses a significant challenge for the team.
The Lakers face the possibility of being without Davis in Game 6 against the Golden State Warriors. Davis suffered a head injury during the fourth quarter of Game 5, and while the early signs are positive, an official diagnosis is yet to be determined. The Lakers need to be prepared for the potential absence of Davis, considering the uncertainty surrounding his availability for the rest of the series.
Winning without your best player is a daunting task, particularly when your entire system revolves around their unique skills. However, upsets are not uncommon in the NBA, and inferior teams often emerge victorious. Even the best NBA teams can lose to underdogs in small sample sizes. The Lakers do not need to devise a strategy to defeat the Warriors four times out of seven; instead, they must focus on implementing a plan that can work once, for a single game, to give them a chance to advance to the Western Conference finals.
Although the Lakers face a significant challenge if Davis is unable to play, there are several strategies they can consider to pull off an upset:
Transform the game into a competition focused on shooting
At first glance, the idea of engaging the Warriors in a shooting contest might seem counterintuitive. The Lakers have struggled with their three-point shooting throughout the season, while the Warriors are historically the best three-point shooting team in NBA history. Over a larger sample size, the Lakers would have little chance of winning a shootout against the Warriors. However, in the context of a single game, the Lakers might be able to compete.
Shooting three-pointers is crucial for underdogs because it increases the variance in the game. Longer shots introduce more randomness into the outcome. By attempting a high volume of three-pointers, the Lakers can create a situation where they might make enough shots to challenge a superior opponent.
Adopt a slower pace of play
In addition to leveraging shooting luck and variance, the Lakers can also utilize the clock as a weapon against the Warriors. Slowing down the game can benefit the underdog by reducing the number of possessions and maximizing the importance of each shot. In a slower-paced game, luck plays a more significant role in the outcome, giving the Lakers a better chance to compete.
Slowing down the game should be a priority for the Lakers, regardless of Davis’ availability. The Warriors have outscored the Lakers on fast breaks in most of the games played in this series. Their fast-paced style has worn out the Lakers, and Golden State’s transition offense has exposed the Lakers’ weakness in defending against quick breaks. To counter this, the Lakers could consider going smaller, emphasizing guard play, shooting, and speed. This adjustment would not only provide more shooting options but also allow the Lakers to keep up with the Warriors’ speed in transition.
LeBron James inspires our trust and confidence
LeBron James has faced the Warriors before while missing key teammates, such as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, during the 2015 NBA Finals. Despite the odds, James managed to push the series to six games, displaying an exceptional level of performance. In five out of those six games, he attempted at least 33 shots. However, in this postseason, James has played more off-ball due to a lingering foot injury, relying on other Lakers’ ball-handlers to contribute. If Davis is sidelined, the Lakers cannot afford James to play a passive role. They need him to unleash his full offensive arsenal.
To have any chance of winning Game 6 without Davis, the Lakers must rely on a legendary performance from LeBron James. Although we haven’t witnessed such dominance from him this postseason, the desperation of the situation might unlock his exceptional abilities. James has proven that he can single-handedly carry a team, and the Lakers will need him to revert to that aggressive mindset to overcome the defending champions.
The Lakers’ path to victory without Davis is narrow and filled with risk. However, by embracing strategies that exploit shooting luck and variance, slowing down the game, and relying on LeBron James’ greatness, they can increase their chances of pulling off an upset against the Warriors.
While the Lakers heavily depend on Anthony Davis, they must be prepared for the possibility of him missing Game 6 against the Warriors. Winning without their star player is a daunting challenge, but it is not impossible. By implementing specific strategies that emphasize shooting luck, slowing down the game, and trusting LeBron James, the Lakers can give themselves a chance to secure a victory and advance to the next round of the playoffs.
Although success without Davis is uncertain, the Lakers have the opportunity to disrupt expectations and prove that they can adapt and overcome adversity. In a league where upsets happen, the Lakers must embrace the challenge and push themselves to their limits. Game 6 will test their resilience, strategy, and ability to thrive in adverse circumstances.