As Anthony Davis left his post-game press conference on Wednesday, he laughed after wrapping up a question about a seemingly balky right knee.
“You’ll see me tomorrow,” he said.
But Lakers fans didn’t see Davis on the court against Detroit, in the second game of the Lakers’ back-to-back on Thursday night. The team announced a few hours before tip-off that Davis would miss the game with a bruised right quadriceps that he injured in the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Davis indicated Wednesday night following a 107-106 loss to the 76ers that although he had seemed to favor his right knee, it wasn’t a lingering issue.
But on Thursday, Davis felt some swelling, leading the Lakers to make the call to shelve him.
“I’m not sure what play, but he came in, he was hobbling for a few possessions, felt like he banged and then just played through the pain the rest of the night,” Coach Frank Vogel said. “Obviously swelled up a little bit and had some discomfort this morning so I decided to hold him out.”
It was the third game the 27-year-old has missed this season, all of which so far having been linked to back-to-backs. Of the Lakers’ four back-to-back game sequences this year, Davis has only played in both games once. Vogel said it hasn’t been part of the Lakers’ strategy to rest Davis in back-to-backs, but the timing of the injuries have simply been happenstance.
The Lakers started Kyle Kuzma, who got his fifth start of the year in his home state of Michigan with family in attendance. It also opened up rotation minutes for Talen Horton-Tucker. Both made a scoring impact in double digits, but the game still marked the first loss of the season without Davis, dropping them to 2-1 without their star big man.
Since signing a five-year maximum contract in the offseason, Davis’ numbers have tailed off slightly from last season, in part owing to the Lakers’ scoring depth this season. He’s averaging 21.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game. After starting the year on a tear from long range, his 3-point percentage has dropped to 32.6 percent, and he’s only made a 3-point shot once in his last seven games.
Still, Davis has remained the Lakers second-best player behind LeBron James, who has given him multiple votes of confidence even though Davis has described his recent stretch as “a funk.”
“I think A.D. is in a pretty good rhythm right now,” James said Wednesday night. “I think every game is getting better and better for him, but it’s our job to give him the ball.”
The one lingering injury that pops out from the sheet is to James himself, who has had his left ankle listed as “questionable” for nearly all of the season since he sprained it in the opening week. But it hasn’t kept him out yet: He’s played in all 19 games this season.
Vogel said he hasn’t ruled out finding rest for James sometime this season but said the 36-year-old hasn’t needed it yet.
If it’s necessary, we’ll do that. He hasn’t felt like it’s necessary to miss a game,” he said. “He still has some soreness in it from time to time. He’s playing on it every day. But it’s nothing of a major concern.”