LOS ANGELES — The surging Los Angeles Lakers lost 112-108 to the New York Knicks on Sunday, and Anthony Davis blamed himself for the halt in momentum as his team squandered a chance to get back to .500 for the first time since opening the season schedule at 0-0.
“My play,” Davis said when asked for the reason for the defeat. “I played terrible. Couldn’t find my shot: free throws, layups, everything. The guys did their job. I didn’t do my job tonight.”
Davis finished with 17 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block, but he missed 10 of his 18 field goal attempts and also missed four out of five free throw attempts.
In the fourth quarter, when New York outscored Los Angeles 27-22 to pull off the upset with Jalen Brunson sidelined due to a left foot injury, Davis was just 1-for-4 from the field in nine minutes.
“It’s on everybody,” Lakers guard Dennis Schroder said. “When we lose, we lose as a team. When we win, we win as a team. But AD, he tries to be great at all times, and he has been, 90 percent of the time, great for us. … So, he can’t put it on himself.”
Rather than evening out their record, the Lakers fell to 33-35 and out of the play-in tournament picture — at least temporarily — as the Western Conference’s No. 11 seed.
The lackluster performance by Davis came a game after he was lauded by teammates for how he didn’t force anything in Los Angeles’ 122-112 win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday, when he scored only eight points on 4-for-7 shooting but encouraged the group to keep going with what was working.
Davis didn’t think Toronto offered a script defensively for the Knicks to follow.
“I just missed a lot of shots,” he said. “I don’t think they did anything special. A lot of times one-on-one, they doubled a couple times. But I don’t think it was anything that carried over from Toronto.”
Even with Davis not playing up to his standards, the Lakers had their chances. They led by four late in the third quarter — with D’Angelo Russell scoring 31 of his season-high 33 points before the fourth quarter even began.
“That one hurt,” said Russell, who was 13-for-19 for the game after starting 9-for-10 from the field. “That one hurt for us. I think we were battling, we tried to do everything we could. We couldn’t get enough rebounds, no stops, didn’t make enough shots. It just didn’t go our way, I guess.”
Los Angeles made one final push when Schroder’s layup with 19.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter cut the Knicks’ lead to two, but the Lakers took too long to foul afterward, stopping the clock with 5.0 seconds left to put Josh Hart on the line. He made both free throws to push New York’s lead back to four and essentially seal the win.
“You try to force a turnover if you can, and then foul,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham explained. “And it just so happened that they spread us out. They did a great job of getting off the ball quickly and allowing the time to dwindle. To do it over again, I would do it the same. I would definitely do it the same. It was just unfortunate we weren’t able to get a foul in a timely fashion.”
Despite seeing their three-game winning streak come to an end, there was one positive development for the Lakers on Sunday. LeBron James rejoined the team after being on a medically excused absence in the past week. The 20-year veteran is no longer wearing a walking boot. The tendon injury in his right foot will be reevaluated in approximately a week and a half, according to the team.
“It’s also good for him to unplug a little bit,” Ham said of James. “Not be detached, necessarily, but just mentally get a little bit of a calming to everything that’s transpired over the year. … It’s not just about him getting healthy; it’s about him being in a good place mentally and spiritually so we get the best version of him when he returns.”
Los Angeles has 14 games remaining on the schedule, beginning with a road back-to-back against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday and the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
The Pelicans (33-35) are one of four teams in the West bunched up in the standings with identical records, along with the Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz.
“Every game shouldn’t take a Western Conference team to be motivated,” Schroder said. “I think every game we got to be motivated and be ready. But that one, the next two, we got to get those.”