By this point in the NBA season we typically have a pretty good idea of who has a legitimate shot to win the Finals. This year, the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks have emerged as the three heavy favorites.
This weekend, the Lakers were scheduled to play their biggest back to back set of games this season against both the Bucks and Clippers. The discussion leading into the weekend was heavily centered around the Lakers star players, Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
Anthony Davis Shows Up Late
Anthony Davis had his own list of questions to answer as well. If the Lakers are to win the Championship Davis will have to be a big-time factor late in games. Davis is currently taking less than four shots per game in the fourth quarter and despite being ninth in the league in points per game, he ranks forty-second overall in fourth-quarter scoring. This weekend would be a different story for Davis.
In Friday’s game against the Bucks, Davis followed his 11-point third quarter with a dominant fourth where he put up 14 points, 6 rebounds and a huge trailing block on a Kris Middleton 3-point attempt. Davis led the charge against Giannis defensively and despite his 32 points, Giannis shot just 47 percent from the field, down over 7 percent from his season average.
Davis followed up his performance against the Bucks with another great game against the Clippers. With 15 points on over 66 percent shooting in the second half Davis was the force the Lakers need him to be against the smaller Clipper team. There was a stretch in the third quarter where Davis completely took over the Laker offense, without LeBron on the floor, and looked utterly unstoppable. It seemed the Clippers’ best option on Davis defensively was Kawhi, which is not how the Clippers want to use their All-World perimeter defender.
The biggest question on Davis has been his toughness but with back to back thirty-point games against two of the best defensive teams in the league, who are also the Lakers’ biggest competition, Davis has given strong reason to believe he can play at a high level at the biggest moments.
LeBron Dominates in MVP Matchups
The Lakers’ first game of the weekend came on Friday against the Bucks and MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo. With LeBron seemingly second in the MVP race, many believed their matchup could have a large impact on the outcome of the award. Milwaukee is the overwhelming favorite to win the Eastern Conference and therefore play the Lakers, should they make the Finals.
LeBron James might have closed that gap in the MVP race between him and Giannis this weekend after leading his team over the Bucks with 37 points on 57 percent shooting. LeBron demonstrated his dominance in the third quarter with 14 points and 3 assists, after being tied at halftime, he led the Lakers to an eleven point lead going into the final quarter.
One of the main questions leading up to the weekend was would LeBron go at the Clippers and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who had gotten the better of LeBron on their first two meetings of the season? LeBron answered by putting up 28 points and 9 assists while guarding Leonard for a good portion of the game. As he typically does, LeBron was able to dictate the pace of the game on offense, but the impact he had defensively was tangible and frankly not something he is expected to do at this point in his career.
It’s become a popular take to suggest Giannis and or Kawhi, depending on who you talk to, have surpassed LeBron as the best basketball player in the world. Although those titles are not won in the regular season, LeBron made a statement this weekend that he won’t be giving up the crown so easily.
The Lakers proved this weekend they can beat the top team in each conference when their stars play at high levels. Anthony Davis played great in big games and took over in spots they needed him too, LeBron James took control of both games and sent the message that he won’t be backing down from any competition and most importantly, the Lakers have proven themselves to be serious championship contenders.
“From Our Haus to Yours”