The “A’s” in Anthony Davis must mean attack.
Davis was in full-on attack mode on both ends of the floor in Game 1, earning a double-double with a few minutes to spare before halftime. AD may have only missed one shot attempt in the first two quarters, but the eight-time All-Star’s level of aggression was contagious, as the Los Angeles Lakers had a 17-3 free throw advantage through two quarters. In fact, the Golden State Warriors got their first free throw attempt with 38 seconds left before halftime.
While he was relatively quiet on offense in the second half, Davis continued to dominate the Warriors on defense, swatting shots and holding his ground against rebounding machine Kevon Looney. AD’s defense would turn out to be more pivotal in the endgame as key stops from him shut the door on Golden State’s comeback attempts.
When the dust settled, the Lakers emerged with a 1-0 series lead and stole home-court advantage from the Warriors. Much of that came largely through the 30 points, 23 rebounds, five assists, and four blocks from AD.
The series’ biggest wildcard is Davis, something that many have reiterated in the buildup to this matchup. AD’s activity on both ends of the floor and, of course, his health could very well dictate the direction of this series and beyond. A healthy Davis is a nightmare for Golden State and the rest of the playoff field, whereas an unhealthy AD could spell disaster for Los Angeles. The Warriors’ best defenders were either too small (Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins) or too slow (Looney) and every matchup is Davis’ to lose. Adding an extra defender on AD sometimes became too costly, especially when the resulting open Laker was one who thrived off free driving lanes.
There’s been talk about how the emerging narrative in this postseason has been Los Angeles becoming Davis’ team. LeBron James continues to defy Father Time at age 38, but the series against the Memphis Grizzlies has shown that the Lakers run through AD. James has been able to enjoy the space given to him thanks to how Davis can be dangerous in the paint, in the perimeter, and at times from behind the 3-point line. In fact, the four-time NBA champion had already made some pronouncements way back on how Los Angeles will be AD’s team’ in good time. Maybe that time is now, or maybe Davis is seizing it given all that’s at stake for him and his team’s legacy.
Game 1 saw AD play 44 minutes with no hitches. Of course, him diving for loose balls or falling down in general still elicits gasps from Laker Nation, but Davis continues to come out unscathed. Risky as it is, that’s what Los Angeles needs from him. The numbers are great, but AD’s influence on the game manifests itself with how Golden State had to think twice in some possessions, leading to turnovers or tougher shot attempts. Lakers head coach Darvin Ham and his staff have been able to utilize Davis in various ways on offense not just as a screener but also as the one being screened for.
With this being a long and physical series, Ham may also need to rest AD whenever he can. Davis played for most, if not the entire second half of Game 1 and that will likely be the case in the succeeding games. Ham went 9-men deep for his Game 1 rotation, with Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr., and Wenyen Gabriel providing solid minutes off the bench. It may not matter much in terms of the amount of minutes, but them being on the court is enough for Davis to take on different defensive assignments that can preserve him for the final stretch.
Anthony Davis was absolutely dominant in the Los Angeles Lakers’ series opener against the Golden State Warriors, setting the tone for what will be a postseason-defining series. Of course, the goal remains an NBA championship and if AD keeps the same energy moving forward, he could be in line to join some hallowed company.