Anthony Davis scores 41 in New Orleans return, chemistry with LeBron James continues to carry Lakers
Davis also seals the game with a steal in the closing seconds
LeBron James knows how difficult these homecoming games can be. When he returned to Cleveland for the first time after leaving for Miami in the summer of 2010, he was showered with boos so maliciously intense it made the hairs stand up just watching it on TV.
So when Anthony Davis, who finished with 41 points in the Lakers' 114-110 victory over the Pelicans, finally finished his clearly emotional postgame interviews, after he'd exchanged jerseys with his friend and former teammate Jrue Holiday, LeBron made sure he was there waiting for him so they could walk off the court together.
Every time I watch this Lakers team, that's the word that keeps popping up in my head. Together. LeBron and Davis are so aware of one another's talent, where one another is on the court, how they can help each other, and that connection between your two star players bleeds into everyone else. This isn't a team that's playing with each other. It's a team playing for each other.
The Warriors talked about this when Kevin Durant made his first return to Oklahoma City. They wanted to win that game FOR Durant, who finished with 34 points that night. The Lakers wanted this game for Davis. LeBron, specifically, wanted it for Davis. Again, he's been there before. He knows this was hard for Davis. He knows the emotions involved, and how hard it is to suppress those feelings and go out and win a hard-fought basketball game.
Let alone put up 41 points and nine boards in the process.
The chemistry between these two superstars is so obvious. And so powerful. Davis said after the game that he and LeBron have already made a habit of waiting for each other after their postgame interviews. We always hear about the co-stars who don't get along, who fight over touches and shots and whether one works hard enough for the other's approval. Davis and LeBron seem so above all that stuff.
Davis, to be fair, didn't have the connection with New Orleans that LeBron had with Cleveland back in 2010, but his leaving for the Lakers in the manner that he did, effectively holding the organization hostage, and ruining its 2018-19 season, until its traded him long before his contract was up, was a messy deal. Fans were upset. Rightfully. They let Davis know about it on Wednesday.
But give Davis his props, man. He went out there and balled. And when the game was on the line, he and LeBron, once again, took the Lakers home. That's the way it's been for a while now. Tight games for these Lakers. Even against not-so-great teams. You could look at that and say: "Well, once their schedule gets a little tougher, they could be in trouble." Personally, I just see a team, and specifically two superstars, who know exactly when, and how, to crank things up, no matter who they're playing.
It's true, though, that the Lakers have been having to grind out wins against some pretty suspect competition. They've won nine straight games, but not a single one of those opponents are currently inside the top eight of its conference. They beat the Grizzlies by one. They beat the Kings by two. They beat the Thunder by three. They beat the Pelican by four. They beat the Thunder again by five.
The common denominator in all these victories has been defense, particularly in the second half and especially the fourth quarter, and Davis and LeBron simply being the best players on the floor. They did it again on Wednesday.
With 7:41 remaining in the fourth quarter, Davis came back in the game after it looked like he might be out for the night with an ice pack on his elbow. The Lakers, at the time, were trailing 95-91. LeBron immediately found Davis for this perfectly-timed alley-oop:
That plays tells you everything about they way these guys are seeing the game from the same page. Davis knew all eyes were on LeBron in a one-on-one post-up, and LeBron knew Davis would use that lack of attention on him, if only for a split second, to cut to the rim. The talent to make that play is one thing. The trust is another. That's not an open-court lob that is all for the cameras. That's a tough connection. In traffic. That has to be perfectly executed. And it was.
From there, LeBron took over, scoring 13 of the Lakers' next 15 points before assisting on a Kyle Kuzma 3-pointer to put the Lakers up two with just over a minute to play. The Pelicans eventually got the ball back down by two (after Davis split two free throws) with 5.3 seconds left. They had it on a side out. But they were unable to get the pass inbounds.
Who stole the pass to seal the game?
Davis was fouled. Made the two free throws to put the Lakers up four. And that was that. An emotional night was behind him. Another win was in the books. The Lakers own the league's best record at 16-2. It's the best record a LeBron James team has ever posted to start a season.
Say what you want about the schedule. Say what you want about the way Davis left New Orleans, or the way LeBron 'quietly' pushed all those young Lakers out the door. They're here now. They're together. And they're flat out taking care of business.
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