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Lakers LeBron James Anthony Davis get tough in Game 3 as Los Angeles

Lakers LeBron James Anthony Davis get tough in Game 3 as Los Angeles

Suns, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Devin Booker, Anthony Davis

Lakers LeBron James Anthony Davis get tough in Game 3 as Los Angeles

N.B.A. Playoffs: Anthony Davis Leads Lakers Past the Suns Fri, 28 May 2021 00:00:00 -0700-Behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis' dominance, the Lakers looked like title contenders for the first time in a while, routing the Suns 109-95 in Game 3.

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LeBron James, Anthony Davis get tough in Game 3 as Los Angeles Lakers regain their groove

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LeBron, Lakers' bench feed off each other's energy for dominant win over Suns (1:13)

The Lakers' bench fuels LeBron James with excitement after several commanding plays vs. the Suns. (1:13)

3:47 AM ET

LOS ANGELES — Playing in their first home playoff game in eight years, the Los Angeles Lakers looked like a true championship contender for the first time in a while.

L.A., the No. 7 seed, won 109-95 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in its first-round matchup against the No. 2-seeded Phoenix Suns, with Anthony Davis (34 points, 11 rebounds) and LeBron James (21 points, nine assists) looking like the dynamic duo that led the Lakers to an NBA title last year.

After right leg injuries to Davis and a right ankle injury for James caused the pair to miss a combined 63 games in the regular season, and the Lakers struggled mightily reintegrating their stars — once dropping eight out of 10 games from late April through early May — the team has clearly turned a corner.

The Suns and Lakers tangled horns in the first half of Game 3, with Davis hyperextending his left knee on a chase-down block of Suns star Devin Booker and L.A. taking just a three-point lead into the break. That's when James, who had parked himself on the perimeter for much of the series up to that point, changed his approach.

“I wasn't reading the game like I would like to in the first half,” said James, who scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Lakers outscored the Suns by that same margin. “Came back into the locker room, made some mental adjustments for me individually that I felt like would work for our team, and we were able to spark a run in the third.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said James' effort made all the difference.

“He changed the whole game,” Vogel said after L.A. won for the eighth time in its past nine games. “His mindset just reversed the whole course of tonight's game.”

James, 36, scored on five of his seven drives to the hole on Thursday, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. The stat was significant, not just for the control it gave L.A. over the momentum, but also for the contrast it was to Games 1 and 2, when James had just two drives to the hoop, scoring once.

“Obviously, it's been a rough year on me as far as physically with my ankle and dealing with that and still trying to get it where it was before the injury,” James said. “But every day is a step forward, and I'm going to continue to put the work into with my treatment around the clock, getting it to where it was before the injury.”

Davis followed suit, pushing through a visible limp without asking out of the game.

“It's the playoffs. It's rare that I'm going to come out of a game,” Davis said. “Landed awkwardly, tried not to fall on Book. Guess I might have hyperextended it a little bit.

“Just keeping it warm, keeping it loose and wanted to keep going. It felt fine throughout the rest of the game. Really didn't have any problems with it. … It was all full of adrenaline, so we'll see how I feel tomorrow. Get some treatment and get some treatment Saturday and be ready to go Sunday.”

Vogel said that Davis' tenacity was second only to James' tactical shift.

“We needed it,” he said of Davis. “We needed him to stay in there to get this W. He knew that. He was going to do whatever it took for us to get this W. And to play through pain, to play through, I mean, he's limping up and down the floor a few times. We were talking to the staff and the medical team like, 'Maybe we gotta get him out.' And they're saying he's good to go, it's safe, it's just playing through pain. And just a tough, tough performance by AD.”

It has been a tough turn of events for the Suns, owners of the second-best record in basketball during the regular season. After winning Game 1, they have not only lost two in a row, but saw Thursday devolve into a laugher, falling behind by as many as 22 points. Two of their players — Booker and Jae Crowder — were ejected in the final minute.

Booker was called for a flagrant foul 2 for pushing an airborne Dennis Schroder to the ground with 35.4 seconds remaining.

“My mom raised me right,” said Schroder, who scored 20 points, when asked if he might have gotten under Booker's skin, prompting the foul. “When somebody talks to me first, I'm gonna talk back. It don't matter who it is. If somebody talks to me disrespectfully, I'm going to do the same thing, so at the end of the day, we're going to battle then.

“Nobody's going to disrespect me. The end of the day, I just talked back and somebody took it too sensitive and fouled me.”

Crowder was called for a technical foul and ejected while the officials finished up reviewing the Booker foul on replay.

Crowder, too, had reason to be frustrated, shooting just 2-for-9 from the field (1-for-7 from 3) and losing for the 15th time in 18 career playoff games facing off against James.

The Lakers star toyed with Crowder in the fourth quarter, deliberately yo-yoing the ball through his legs on an isolation possession, bringing the crowd of 7,825 fans to its feet. Later, James posted up the Phoenix forward before slipping past him with a spin move and scoring on a pretty reverse layup to push the Lakers' lead to 91-70 with 7 minutes, 32 seconds remaining.

“For me and for our ballclub, we always try to make plays where we can get each other excited, we can get our fans involved, get our fans excited about it. Because it just brings so much excitement to the game,” James said. “Plays can be momentum swings that can work in our favor. So, that was one of those instances where we had an opportunity to make a momentum play and we were able to deliver.”


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LeBron James, Anthony Davis get tough in Game 3 as Los Angeles … Fri, 28 May 2021 00:00:00 -0700-In Los Angeles, a star absorbs a few blows as he delivers shot after shot, leading the Lakers past the Suns.

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Anthony Davis and the Lakers Are Back on Their Feet

May 28, 2021

In Los Angeles, a star absorbs a few blows as he delivers shot after shot, leading the Lakers past the Suns.

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Anthony Davis has 68 points in the Lakers’ two series wins.Credit…Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
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May 28, 2021, 7:35 a.m. ET

LOS ANGELES — It was not an especially pleasant night of basketball for Anthony Davis. Productive? Yes. Pleasant? No.

The Lakers on Thursday were playing in front of a home playoff crowd for the first time since 2013, and Davis christened the festivities by picking up his first foul 15 seconds into the game. A few minutes later, his face got in the way of one of Deandre Ayton’s elbows.

In the second quarter, Davis sprinted the length of the court to chase down Devin Booker and swat away his layup — only to wrench his left knee. Davis would later describe it as “hyperextended.” Whatever the official diagnosis, he used a heat wrap at halftime and then removed it so that he could continue with his now-familiar business of torching the Phoenix Suns.

Davis, the Lakers’ All-Star power forward, has not been immune to injury. He missed about two months this season with a calf strain, and the Lakers have little chance of defending their N.B.A. championship without him. On Thursday, he was hobbling throughout the second half of the Lakers’ 109-95 win over the Suns in Game 3 of their first-round series, and Frank Vogel, the Lakers’ coach, kept turning to the members of his medical staff: Were they sure this was such a good idea?

Davis after he took an elbow to the face from Deandre Ayton.Credit…Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
His troubles mounted when he tried to block a Devin Booker shot.Credit…Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

“Maybe we should get him out,” Vogel recalled telling them. “And they’re saying, ‘He’s good to go. He’s safe. It’s just about playing through pain.’”

Davis wound up collecting 34 points and 11 rebounds to help the Lakers take a 2-1 series lead over Phoenix ahead of Game 4 on Sunday afternoon, and the Suns — who earned the No. 2 seed with an enormously successful regular season — seem in danger of coming unglued. Chris Paul’s shoulder injury has rendered him a sad shadow of himself. His teammates are being thwarted by the Lakers’ defense, and their frustration is starting to show.

Players from both teams spent the late stages of Thursday’s game barking at each other.

“That’s playoff basketball,” Davis said. “Guys are going to chirp. Guys are going to talk.”

But while the Lakers seemed to consume all the theatrics as fuel — Dennis Schröder, for example, did a series of push-ups after Booker knocked him to the court in the final minute — the Suns lost their composure. Booker was ejected for his flagrant foul on Schröder — Davis called it a “dirty play” — and the Suns’ Jae Crowder soon got tossed, too.

The Lakers, of course, are only seven months removed from last season’s title run in the bubble, and few pundits were dismissing them ahead of their series with the Suns. Sure, they might have limped into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed after a disjointed season that was marred by injuries. But they still employ two of the best players on the planet. So what if LeBron James missed 26 games down the stretch because of a sprained ankle? So what if their lineup was seldom whole? So what if they lost 9 of 15 games in April?

The doubts, murmurs and questions crept in, though, after their Game 1 loss in Phoenix. Davis, after being outplayed by Ayton, took the blame and vowed to be better. Before Game 2, he seemed uniquely determined to his teammates: quiet in a fearsome way. He delivered, scoring 34 points to help tie the series.

On Thursday, the Lakers were leading by 3 at halftime when Davis (and James) went to work. After James scored the first two baskets of the third quarter by attacking creases in the lane, he fed Davis for a dunk. The Suns immediately called a timeout, but the Lakers’ run had the feel of storm clouds forming on the horizon.

“Those two guys really reversed the whole course of the game,” Vogel said of Davis and James.

Coming out of the timeout, Davis kept calling for the ball, and scoring, and limping, and rebounding, and scoring some more. He corralled a lob for another dunk. He faced up against Ayton and lofted a leaner over him. Davis scored 18 points in the third quarter alone, and some close observers of the Lakers were calling it the team’s best stretch of basketball of the season.

“He’s just ultra-aggressive right now,” James said of Davis, adding: “When he’s aggressive, we’re all aggressive.”

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Jae Crowder and the Suns lost their cool, and LeBron James and the Lakers left with a 2-1 lead in the series.Credit…Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Even Davis’s mistakes came with thunderous flair. After cutting through the lane and catching a pass from James, Davis rose for an attempted dunk that caromed off the back of the rim with such force that the ball nearly grazed the video screen hanging above center court. Later, he lost one of his sneakers while drawing a foul. He otherwise remained intact.

“Just a gutsy, tough performance from a great player,” Vogel said, “and we needed it.”

Before joining the Lakers last season, Davis had been to the playoffs only twice, without ever taking his team past the second round. He was a great player — dominant, even — but he was not necessarily known as a winner, and his exit from New Orleans was a messy one.

Davis went a long way toward repairing his reputation in the bubble, winning a championship with James while making important shots along the way. Now, he appears to be savoring the chance to make another title run, this time in arenas that are beginning to fill with fans.

“We’re finding our groove at the right time,” he said.

In Los Angeles, a star absorbs a few blows as he delivers shot after shot, leading the Lakers past the Suns.

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Anthony Davis has 68 points in the Lakers’ two series wins.Credit…Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
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May 28, 2021, 7:35 a.m. ET

LOS ANGELES — It was not an especially pleasant night of basketball for Anthony Davis. Productive? Yes. Pleasant? No.

The Lakers on Thursday were playing in front of a home playoff crowd for the first time since 2013, and Davis christened the festivities by picking up his first foul 15 seconds into the game. A few minutes later, his face got in the way of one of Deandre Ayton’s elbows.

In the second quarter, Davis sprinted the length of the court to chase down Devin Booker and swat away his layup — only to wrench his left knee. Davis would later describe it as “hyperextended.” Whatever the official diagnosis, he used a heat wrap at halftime and then removed it so that he could continue with his now-familiar business of torching the Phoenix Suns.

Davis, the Lakers’ All-Star power forward, has not been immune to injury. He missed about two months this season with a calf strain, and the Lakers have little chance of defending their N.B.A. championship without him. On Thursday, he was hobbling throughout the second half of the Lakers’ 109-95 win over the Suns in Game 3 of their first-round series, and Frank Vogel, the Lakers’ coach, kept turning to the members of his medical staff: Were they sure this was such a good idea?

Davis after he took an elbow to the face from Deandre Ayton.Credit…Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
His troubles mounted when he tried to block a Devin Booker shot.Credit…Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

“Maybe we should get him out,” Vogel recalled telling them. “And they’re saying, ‘He’s good to go. He’s safe. It’s just about playing through pain.’”

Davis wound up collecting 34 points and 11 rebounds to help the Lakers take a 2-1 series lead over Phoenix ahead of Game 4 on Sunday afternoon, and the Suns — who earned the No. 2 seed with an enormously successful regular season — seem in danger of coming unglued. Chris Paul’s shoulder injury has rendered him a sad shadow of himself. His teammates are being thwarted by the Lakers’ defense, and their frustration is starting to show.

Players from both teams spent the late stages of Thursday’s game barking at each other.

“That’s playoff basketball,” Davis said. “Guys are going to chirp. Guys are going to talk.”

But while the Lakers seemed to consume all the theatrics as fuel — Dennis Schröder, for example, did a series of push-ups after Booker knocked him to the court in the final minute — the Suns lost their composure. Booker was ejected for his flagrant foul on Schröder — Davis called it a “dirty play” — and the Suns’ Jae Crowder soon got tossed, too.

The Lakers, of course, are only seven months removed from last season’s title run in the bubble, and few pundits were dismissing them ahead of their series with the Suns. Sure, they might have limped into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed after a disjointed season that was marred by injuries. But they still employ two of the best players on the planet. So what if LeBron James missed 26 games down the stretch because of a sprained ankle? So what if their lineup was seldom whole? So what if they lost 9 of 15 games in April?

The doubts, murmurs and questions crept in, though, after their Game 1 loss in Phoenix. Davis, after being outplayed by Ayton, took the blame and vowed to be better. Before Game 2, he seemed uniquely determined to his teammates: quiet in a fearsome way. He delivered, scoring 34 points to help tie the series.

On Thursday, the Lakers were leading by 3 at halftime when Davis (and James) went to work. After James scored the first two baskets of the third quarter by attacking creases in the lane, he fed Davis for a dunk. The Suns immediately called a timeout, but the Lakers’ run had the feel of storm clouds forming on the horizon.

“Those two guys really reversed the whole course of the game,” Vogel said of Davis and James.

Coming out of the timeout, Davis kept calling for the ball, and scoring, and limping, and rebounding, and scoring some more. He corralled a lob for another dunk. He faced up against Ayton and lofted a leaner over him. Davis scored 18 points in the third quarter alone, and some close observers of the Lakers were calling it the team’s best stretch of basketball of the season.

“He’s just ultra-aggressive right now,” James said of Davis, adding: “When he’s aggressive, we’re all aggressive.”

image
Jae Crowder and the Suns lost their cool, and LeBron James and the Lakers left with a 2-1 lead in the series.Credit…Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Even Davis’s mistakes came with thunderous flair. After cutting through the lane and catching a pass from James, Davis rose for an attempted dunk that caromed off the back of the rim with such force that the ball nearly grazed the video screen hanging above center court. Later, he lost one of his sneakers while drawing a foul. He otherwise remained intact.

“Just a gutsy, tough performance from a great player,” Vogel said, “and we needed it.”

Before joining the Lakers last season, Davis had been to the playoffs only twice, without ever taking his team past the second round. He was a great player — dominant, even — but he was not necessarily known as a winner, and his exit from New Orleans was a messy one.

Davis went a long way toward repairing his reputation in the bubble, winning a championship with James while making important shots along the way. Now, he appears to be savoring the chance to make another title run, this time in arenas that are beginning to fill with fans.

“We’re finding our groove at the right time,” he said.


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– May 28, 2021
Suns, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Devin Booker, Anthony Davis

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