Los Angeles Times
Davis sets tone early, scores 39 as Lakers fend off Warriors’ runs to win
LAKERS 113, GOLDEN STATE 105
It looked so easy, Anthony Davis combining size and skill to loft hook shots and using force to slam home rebounds Sunday afternoon against the Golden State Warriors.
He couldn’t be stopped, the Lakers building a 20-point lead in a six-minute chunk of the first quarter.
Yet with the Lakers, nothing has been easy, a season in which LeBron James, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, is forced to wheel around on a scooter in the back hallways of Crypto.com Arena and D’Angelo Russell, their big trade-deadline acquisition, has sat out more games for the Lakers than he has played.
That lead they built in minutes? The Lakers spent the next two hours clinging to it against a returning Stephen Curry and the defending-champion Warriors.
With 53 seconds left and the shot clock set to expire, Davis
stared down Draymond Green and attacked one of the NBA’s best defenders, floating a four-footer softly off the rim and into the net.
The bucket sealed a 113105 victory, a precious step toward the playoffs while the Lakers try to get healthy.
“AD is AD. One of one,” teammate Dennis Schroder said of Davis. “… When he’s in attack mode, it’s always going to be tough to stop him. I mean, Draymond ... he’s one of the best defenders in the league, but AD is a top-five player in the world. So, he made a hell of a play there.”
It was the kind of play to cap the kind of effort — 39 points, eight rebounds and six assists by Davis — the Lakers need from their best player down the stretch.
The Lakers (31-34) rebounded from a loss against Minnesota on Friday with a strong performance against the Warriors because of the tone Davis set early.
The Lakers led 32-12 in the first quarter, Davis quickly scoring 15 points.
“They shoot the ball too well,” Davis said of the Warriors (34-31), whose fivegame winning streak ended. “Not just them, but a 20point lead in this league is nothing anymore — it doesn’t hold value.”
It was even more deceiving Sunday with Curry playing for the first time in a month after recovering from a left leg injury. Along with Klay Thompson, the two guards combined to hit nine three-pointers with all but one coming after the Lakers built their 20-point lead.
Yet despite multiple pushes and the Warriors forging ties in the third and fourth quarters, the Lakers never let them push ahead.
“They’re defending champions; they’re gonna make a run, make plays, make shots,” Davis said. “Between Steph, Klay and Jordan Poole, they’re elite shooters. I think we locked in defensively. They got away a couple times, but we just continued to compete. Even when they made their runs, we made a run of our own and we were able to close the game out.”
Schroder and Austin Reaves teamed up to chase after Curry, and though he scored 27 points, he needed 20 shots. Nineteen of those points came in the fourth after Reaves kicked off the quarter by blocking a layup by Curry, who drilled a nearimpossible three on the next possession.
“Honestly, I don’t know how he’s in such good shape with not playing for however long he [missed]. Never looks like he’s tired,” Reaves said. “... I had a nice block on him, and then I think he came off a pin down and hit a three. Got in the paint for a floater or something. Had like seven straight.
“If I could give the block away for him not to score, I would’ve.”
Even matched up against Curry, Reaves made few mistakes as he led the Lakers with 16 points and eight assists off the bench. His threepointer before the end of the third quarter gave the Lakers a nudge into the fourth and helped extinguish one of the Warriors’ runs.
“The fearlessness he’s had all season,” coach Darvin Ham said of Reaves. “Again, we have the utmost confidence in Austin and what he brings to the table. He was huge. He had a segment there where he was making every play, scoring, knocking down shots.”
Six Lakers scored in double figures. The team hosts Memphis, which won’t have star guard Ja Morant, on Tuesday night. Russell is day to day after sitting out his fifth straight game because of an ankle injury.
If the Lakers have to play without him against the Grizzlies, they can take comfort in the way Davis is meeting the moment as the team’s primary option.
“I’ve been doing it my whole career ... doing whatever the team needs,” Davis said. “Obviously with Bron out, the team’s gonna rely on me more to make plays for myself, for others. Other guys are stepping up, playing well, making shots, defending. So it’s a team effort . ... Like I said, it’s a team [the Warriors] that’s seen every defensive coverage, seen a lot of shots go in over the years, been together for a while, championship experience.
“So it’s a big win for us.” At this stage, they all are.