SAN FRANCISCO — Anthony Davis sat subsequent to LeBron James, watching as James heaped reward upon him.
“The Lakers franchise through the years, over the course of their existence, has at all times had dominant large males, dominant guys which have been a pressure on the rim,” James stated, after a dominant efficiency by Davis within the Lakers’ Game 1 win. within the Western Conference semifinal sequence in opposition to the Golden State Warriors. “That’s why their jerseys are within the rafters. AD will probably be up there when he is finished enjoying.”
James went on for an additional minute in the identical vein. Once he completed, Davis patted him on the again.
“I’ll take my watch subsequent week,” James stated, smiling at his joke a few quid professional quo. “Or a automobile.”
This sequence is one which has stirred nostalgia for the years when James and Warriors guard Stephen Curry used to face off each June for the NBA championship. But it may hinge on Davis, who has the potential to be the very best participant within the sequence. On Tuesday night time, Davis confirmed simply what his dominance can imply to the Lakers, as he pushed them to a 117-112 win on the highway over the defending-champion Warriors, wresting away home-court benefit.
Curry completed with 27 factors, six rebounds and three assists whereas two different Golden State guards, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole, additionally eclipsed 20 factors.
Davis completed the sport with 30 factors and 23 rebounds, additionally blocking 4 photographs. With no less than 30 factors and 20 rebounds, Davis joined elite firm in Lakers playoff historical past: Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal. The most drastic statistical distinction between the groups was a direct results of Davis’s play: The Lakers outscored the Warriors contained in the paint by 54-28.
“He’s every little thing for us,” Lakers guard Dennis Schroder stated. “Defensively, offensively, large half for this group. I imply, wasn’t an all-star, wasn’t the defensive participant of the 12 months. He’s taking it significantly, doing every little thing for us, and he is the anchor.”
That James and Curry have been the narrative heart of this sequence made sense. They are two of the very best to have ever performed within the NBA, and every has gained 4 championships. They performed in opposition to one another within the finals yearly from 2015 to 2018, and every has gained a championship since then as properly — James in 2020 and Curry final season.
This is the primary time since 2018 that the 2 have confronted one another within the playoffs, and there have been loads of moments Tuesday night time after they commanded the stage.
Before the sport, the 2 shared amusing on the scorer’s desk. Midway by way of the second quarter, whereas Davis was capturing free throws, James wandered down the sideline with Curry, who was heading to the Golden State bench. James stayed by Curry’s aspect till he sat down, and even then continued speaking to him.
“He was simply joking round about having to protect me all the best way until I acquired to the bench,” Curry stated.
But at halftime, James was with Davis. The two of them walked off the court docket collectively, shoulder to shoulder, stride for stride.
The scene was paying homage to their first season collectively, the 2019-20 championship season, when Davis and James hardly went anyplace with out one another and waited for one another to complete their on-court interviews after each sport.
The Lakers gave up quite a bit to amass Davis the summer season earlier than that season, together with gamers who would develop into vital items for different franchises, and Davis appeared to reward them instantly. He was named first-team All-NBA that 12 months, in addition to the All-Defensive first crew. He was a candidate for defensive participant of the 12 months. He match completely on James’s crew.
Part of what made that partnership work so seamlessly was the best way their personalities meshed. Davis by no means wanted to be the focus. James did not thoughts it, even thrived in it.
“We’re not jealous of one another,” James stated through the 2020 NBA finals.
That dynamic got here into play on Tuesday night time when James and Curry have been the focus.
Davis may not search consideration, however on the court docket he requires it, particularly when he performs the best way he did in Game 1.
“We know that is what he is able to,” Lakers Coach Darvin Ham stated. “It’s nice. We wanted each little bit of all these factors and rebounds and blocked photographs, assists as properly.”
Although Davis excelled at defending contained in the paint, he made his presence felt all around the court docket. Late within the sport, he thwarted the Warriors shortly after Curry tied the sport with a heart-stopping 3-pointer with 1:38 remaining that capped a 14-0 run.
Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell scored, getting the lead again for the Lakers. Moments later Curry tried once more, this time driving in the direction of the basket, solely to have his shot blocked by Davis. With 39.3 seconds left, and the Lakers up by 3, Davis grabbed a rebound off a miss by Poole.
Davis was aggressive offensively as properly and appeared tireless regardless of enjoying 43 minutes and 50 seconds, greater than some other participant. He performed the complete second half.
Ham credited the load administration by which the Lakers had engaged earlier within the 12 months for with the ability to play Davis large minutes within the playoffs.
Davis’s critics have questioned his sturdiness and his consistency, and never with out cause. He has missed video games as a result of damage in yearly of his profession and performed in solely 56 video games this season.
“It does not matter to me,” he stated. “I do not care what nobody thinks. Only the fellows within the locker room, teaching workers, solely opinions that I care about. Other than that, I simply exit and play basketball, do what I can do to assist the crew win.”
Davis and James have been two of the final remaining gamers on the court docket Tuesday night time, Davis doing a postgame interview with TNT and James talking with the Lakers’ native regional broadcast channel. Davis briefly interrupted James’ interview to do a customized handshake earlier than leaving the court docket.
“It’s going to be a unique sport,” Davis stated, when requested about Game 2 on Thursday. “They’re going to make changes; We’re going to make changes.” He added: “I’m going to proceed to be aggressive.”