Anthony Davis can’t pull Lakers out of post-tournament funk

4 min read

The Lakers’ NBA in-season tournament championship banner was lowered to some applause from the fans inside Crypto.com Arena and mostly indifference from the players who won it.

They stood and looked at the NBA Cup as it was placed at center court during a pregame ceremony Monday night, their eyes moving in every direction ahead of their matchup with the New York Knicks.

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle is fouled by Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt during the first half.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

It’s obvious that the Lakers are about winning NBA championships, about adding to the 17 they already have, about that remaining their primary motivation.

But the Lakers did defeat the Indiana Pacers to win the inaugural NBA in-season tournament.

“I think it’s awesome,” LeBron James said. “To be able to acknowledge wins throughout the course of a marathon, I think that’s pretty cool. That’s the first, the inauguration of it. We were able to win it. So for our fans that didn’t get an opportunity to be in Vegas, they got an opportunity to kind of share that celebration with us tonight, share that moment, something that will live on forever for sure here. So, it was a good moment.”

But it’s also a hard truth that the Lakers haven’t replicated the passion, energy and intensity they had during the tournament.

They were stymied by the Knicks, losing 114-109 in a game that left the Lakers 1-3 since winning in Las Vegas on Dec. 9.

James registered a triple-double with 25 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but he was just 10 for 23 from the field and two for eight from three-point range.

Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 32 points and 14 rebounds.

But with Jalen Brunson dropping 29 points and Julius Randle 27, the Lakers couldn’t rally after being out-rebounded 52-40.

The Lakers' NBA Cup championship banner was revealed in a pregame ceremony Monday night at Crypto.com Arena.

The Lakers’ NBA Cup championship banner was revealed in a pregame ceremony Monday night at Crypto.com Arena.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The tough stretch for the Lakers “could be a little bit of everything,” James said.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Have you seen Indiana’s record since Vegas?”

The Pacers are 1-4 since playing in Las Vegas, including a 151-127 beating they took from the Clippers on Monday.

Similar to their last three games, the Lakers started slow against the Knicks, going down 12 points in the second quarter.

But then Davis took over, attacking the Knicks to score nine of his 13 first-half points in the second quarter, his last two coming with 0.1 seconds left to give the Lakers a 58-57 lead at halftime. He also had 10 first-half rebounds.

Lakers star LeBron James scores during the first quarter against the Knicks.

Lakers star LeBron James scores during the first quarter against the Knicks. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Lakers forward Jaxson Hayes dunks during the first half.

Lakers forward Jaxson Hayes dunks during the first half. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

When the third quarter started, the Lakers went back to playing sluggishly. They went down 90-80 to end the third and never recovered.

“Yeah. The championship hangover. I don’t think that it’s one of those,” Davis said. “I mean, we go in and have a battle against Dallas. Win against San Antonio. And then obviously let one slip away again against them. And then a fight tonight. I don’t think it’s one of those things where we’re hungover from the in-season tournament.”

The Lakers are heading back on the road, playing Chicago on Wednesday night, with games against Minnesota on Thursday and Oklahoma City on Saturday. It is their job, Lakers coach Darvin Ham said, to stay focused on what’s ahead.

“So, we just, we got to push through this time,” Ham said. “We got to push through this time. And it’s normally like that in December and January. So, we’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. We’ll watch it on film as we prepare to also get ready for this three-game trip.”

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