N.B.A. Playoffs: Anthony Davis Leads Lakers Past the Suns


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.

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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