Anthony Davis joins rare company in sparking Lakers’ Game 1 win
SAN FRANCISCO — In the final 90 seconds of Game 1 of the Lakers‘ second-round series against the Golden State Warriors, Anthony Davis blocked a layup by Stephen Curry and corralled a rebound off a Jordan Poole miss to put the finishing touches on L.A.’s 117-112 win Tuesday night.
The sequence would have been notable enough had it just helped to squelch the defending champions’ furious 14-0 rally to tie the game that preceded it.
The fact that it came after Davin played every single minute of the second half, posting a final line of 30 points, 23 rebounds, five assists and four blocks to allow the Lakers to steal home court in the opening game of a second consecutive playoff series made it monumental.
“The Lakers franchise over the years, over the course of their existence, has always had dominant big men, dominant guys that have been a force at the rim,” LeBron James said after Davis joined Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Elgin Baylor as the only other players in team history to record a 30-20 game in the playoffs. “That’s why their jerseys are in the rafters. A.D. will be up there when he’s done playing. The No. 3 will be up in the rafters. He continues to show why he’s one of the best players that we have in this league.”
Davis started his damage early, putting up 23 points on 9-for-10 shooting (5-for-5 from the free throw line) and 11 rebounds in the first half — nearly matching his first-round averages against Memphis (20.8 points and 13.7 rebounds) by intermission.
“The guys gave the ball to me in the right spots,” Davis said. “A lot of it came out of pick and roll, post-ups, some offensive rebounds. Just being aggressive when I do catch [the ball], looking to score, looking to play make to the other guys.”
Davis was effective in all aspects of the game. His teammates shot 5-for-5 when they shot off his feeds, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. And the Warriors shot just 4-for-17 on shots that Davis contested, with Golden State shooting just 40.6% from the field overall in Game 1.
“I mean, he’s everything for us,” said Lakers guard Dennis Schroder, who was impressive in his own right with 19 points off the bench. “Defensively. Offensively. He’s a big part for this organization. He wasn’t an All-Star. He wasn’t a Defensive Player of the Year. He’s taking it serious, doing everything for us and he’s the anchor.”
After missing 20 games in the belly of the season because of a bone chip and stress reaction in his foot, the Lakers were careful about Davis’ workload — playing him in only one back-to-back since his return to the lineup and generally managing his minutes.
It was all part of an effort to save Davis for nights like Tuesday in the postseason, Lakers coach Darvin Ham said, when Davis was able to stay on the floor for 44 minutes.
“We have to manage their loads throughout the regular season in order for us to push them a little further during this time of year,” Ham said. “Postseason, everything is at its peak. You have to pare down your rotation and you got to push the big dogs. Your big dogs got to be there early and often.”
Davis only shot 1-for-5 in the fourth — and the No. 7-seeded Lakers shot 8-for-24 as a team (33.3%) — but they did enough to start the series by putting the No. 6-seeded Warriors on their heels.
“The biggest thing for us is not to get happy, stay humble, respect our opponent, but also know that there’s a ton of work left to be done,” Ham said. “It’s not the first one (to win a game), not the first with the greatest performance individually (to win the series).”
His greatness more than made up for James’ off shooting night (24 points on 9-for-24 shooting and just 1-for-8 from 3) and relatively quiet performances from first-round standouts Austin Reaves (10 points) and Rui Hachimura (six points).
And the quest to become the first team to four wins to advance to the Western Conference finals will continue with Game 2 on Thursday.
“It’s going to be a different game,” Davis said. “They’re going to make adjustments. We’re going to make adjustments. The building will be probably a little bit louder. Obviously they don’t want to go down 0-2. The crowd will be more into it. … I’m going to continue to be aggressive.”