"Sucks telling these guys every game that I'm proud of you, good effort. We lost. It's not fun, but it could be worst. Our group has stayed together, they're putting in a good fight. Their attitude has been wonderful in terms of just working together to get things right. It's just disappointing to come in and keep saying we fell short," Frank Vogel, who might have just coached one of his last games for the Lakers, said.
Despite Anthony Davis' impressive effort to will his team to victory, the Lakers fell short against the Denver Nuggets (118-129) in a gritty matchup. Led by reigning MVP Nikola Jokic's 33 points, 18 rebounds, and six assists, the Nuggets executed well down the stretch to seal the game.
Davis, who had 28 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists, was visibly hobbling all game as he admitted that he wasn't 100 percent healthy. The Brow started the game strong, making five out of his eight shots from the field, and looked like the best player on the court. Unfortunately, Davis reaggravated his ankle injury in the first half, which affected his performance all night.
"It bothered me throughout the game from start to finish but like what I said, it's a time I have to fight true it," Davis said. "The guys fought extremely hard today. That fourth quarter, last five to six minutes. Costly turnovers, I missed some layups, missed some tough shots. That last five minutes hurt us," Davis added.
"He's (AD) is not 100% but he's playing with a lot of heart. I'm proud of him," Vogel said when asked about Davis' performance.
An incomplete season
When Davis was asked postgame about his thoughts on the Lakers' big three having only played 20 out of 78 games so far this season, he mentioned that it was something they never expected would happen at the start of the season.
"We didn't expect us only to have 20 games together. It's kinda been that year. I'm in or LeBron's in and the times we play together, we do really look good, and then somebody's out of the lineup. It's just kind of been that year and it's been tough not fully reaching our potential as far as us three being on the floor and seeing what we could be. With that being said, we also have enough to win basketball games when LeBron does not play or I don't play as you saw tonight," David said.
The Lakers' big three have only shared 18.8 minutes on the court together this season. In those 20 games where Davis, Westbrook, and James played together, the Lakers have a net rating of -1.2 and have only won 12 of those games. This is also the first time in James' prestigious career that his team is 16 games below .500. It is an understatement to say that their season didn't go the way they hoped.
Are the Lakers risking AD and LeBron James' health?
After Sunday's loss, the Lakers (31-47) are officially two games behind the San Antonio Spurs (32-45) in the Western Conference. Their hopes of making it to the play-in look bleaker than ever.
So the question for the purple and gold is if these next four must-win games are worth risking Davis' ankle and James' (who didn't suit up on Sunday) foot? The last thing they want is their superstars to suffer catastrophic injuries this late in the season.
"We're not a team that's going to fold until it's over. We got four games left and our job is to compete in every one of those," Davis said.
As for Westbrook, who had one of his most efficient games of the season on Sunday, it's just all about leaving it all on the floor.
"Take it one day at a time. Go out to compete at the best of your ability and whatever you leave out of the floor, whatever the results are you can live with it," Westbrook said.
The Lakers are still uncertain whether these next four games will be their last ones for the season. Both Davis and Westbrook vowed still to give it their all in the next few days, but unfortunately for them, it already feels like their season ended on Sunday.