It's possible the Los Angeles Lakers will have Anthony Davis back for Game 6 against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, as they try to stave off the first first-round elimination of LeBron James' career. And it's possible that having Davis back will engender a more spirited performance from LeBron and Co. than the one they put forward Tuesday, when the Suns blitzed the Lakers en route to a 30-point victory and a 3-2 series lead.
But would Davis' return, and the ripple effects it might produce, be enough on its own to flip a series that's tilting toward the younger, fresher, deeper team?
Without even accounting for how limited Davis could be if he tries to play through a groin injury, his return won't be enough to extend the series if the rest of the Lakers don't fix what ailed them in Game 5. It's not just about individual performance, although almost every rotation player needs to be better. The team also has some things to figure out tactically that Davis alone won't remedy.
For starters, there has to be at least some concern about the state of LeBron and his wonky ankle, even if he left something in reserve because he recognized winning Game 5 was out of reach. His counting stats looked fine - he finished with 24 points on 19 shooting possessions, hit six threes, and dished seven assists - but it was jarring to see how incapable he was of making an impact inside the arc.
Even when James looked to drive the ball, he couldn't seem to find his way around or through Deandre Ayton. He tried to face up Torrey Craig from the left block and got stuffed. James repeatedly shied away from contact. He shot just 2-for-5 at the rim and didn't get to the line once. It was the first time since 2013 that he went without a free-throw attempt in a playoff game. Here's one clear indication that he didn't have his usual juice.