Barely 12 months removed from last year’s 0-5 start, Anthony Davis made sure that the Los Angeles Lakers would not have to wait as long for their first win this season.
The eight-time NBA All-Star led the Lakers to a 100-95 win over the short-handed Phoenix Suns with 30 points on 10-of-17 field goal shooting, 12 rebounds, two assists, three steals, and three blocks.
The Suns were without two of their three NBA All-Stars, so it was particularly crucial that the Lakers did not let this game slip away as a loss would have certainly brought on a tidal wave of criticism.
Davis bounced back strongly from his poor showing in their opening day loss, where he scored 17 points in the first half and went scoreless in the second half, against the Denver Nuggets and his efforts ensured that Los Angeles took home a win in their home opener.
Now more than ever, this Laker team needs Davis to lead the charge for them on a nightly basis if they are to emerge as a legitimate contender in the West this year. This win versus Phoenix was a good start for him, but there are still many months remaining in this long season.
The 30-year-old forward was aggressive from the opening tip as he attacked the defense of his primary match-up, the Suns’ Jusuf Nurkic, for Los Angeles’ first points of the evening. It was quite encouraging that he was consistently aggressive on offense throughout the contest and, as usual, was a menace on the defensive end of the floor.
Davis also played a key role in the Lakers’ rally back from a 12-point deficit at the beginning of the fourth period. He scored six quick points in the first three minutes of the final quarter and wound up with 13 fourth quarter points–out-scoring the entire Phoenix team just by himself over the period.
The contributions of Davis and the rest of Los Angeles’ supporting cast allowed them to stick close to the Suns for most of the match which allowed LeBron James to coast until crunch time. The 38-year-old James also had a double digit fourth quarter, tallying 10 of his 21 points during the last eight minutes of the game. James grabbed the win for the Lakers as he broke a 91-all tie with back-to-back lay-ups in the last 71 seconds of play to give them a four-point advantage.
Now that Los Angeles has secured their first victory, the focus now shifts to the rest of the season. They are clearly still a work in progress and must focus on integrating their offseason additions to maximize their potential.
Newcomers Christian Wood, Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Jaxson Hayes, and Cam Reddish may not have NBA All-Star upside, yet they should all be able to make key contributions within their role. The continued development of Austin Reaves in his first full season as a starter will be crucial for this team’s chances as well.
Once these players can take on their fair share of the load for this Laker team, it should allow Davis and James to play less minutes and stay fresh over the regular season. A healthy Davis should have no problem dominating the league and playing a more reasonable amount of minutes is the first step in ensuring that he remains in tip-top shape.
If things fall into place for Davis this year, it would not come as a surprise if he emerges as a prime candidate for the NBA Most Valuable Player award. It has never been a question of talent when it comes to Davis as it has been his availability and consistency that have always been the biggest issues. This might be the year that he finally puts it all together and this would put Los Angeles right back on the map as contenders for this season’s title.