Davis is averaging 27 points, nine rebounds, and nearly three blocked shots a game for the Lakers, giving LeBron James the ace-in-the-hole he didn’t have last season. It’s early in the season, but Davis has played so well that he’s in the league’s MVP conversation.
The Minnesota Timberwolves thought they had the answer in how to block Davis from dominating a game when the two teams met Sunday at the Staples Center. The Timberwolves guessed wrong. At least for this game, Davis was too much to handle for the Timberwolves as he did what he pretty much wanted against Minnesota’s defense.
The Timberwolves, like everyone else in the league, discovered that it’s quite difficult to contain a 6-foot-10 pogo stick with the fluidity of a ballerina and the deft shooting touch of a cobra, especially when this phenom is playing on the court with an all-time great in LeBron James.
Davis dropped 50 points on Minnesota. James added 32 points and 13 assists in the Lakers’ 142-125 home win. And once again, the dynamic duo appeared to have put the rest of the league on notice as the Purple and Gold went off on a scorning binge, scoring the highest totals of a Lakers squad since 1989.
“I think in his last couple of games in the third quarter we’ve seen him at 36 points or 39 points and I’m like ‘it’s only the third quarter you can get 50.’ In Portland, he probably could’ve gotten it too, but he kind of slowed down,” Lakers guard Danny Green said. “Tonight he didn’t, so it’s a special night for him. He’s a special player — he can do it from the three-point line, he can do it inside the paint, he can do it from the free-throw line. He’s done it from many ways so far this season… It was good to see, but for us, we still have some work to do.”
Davis scored 42 of his game-high 50 points in just three-quarters of play. The Lakers would need all of the 50 points that Davis put up. He stayed around long enough in the game to pick eight more points in the fourth quarter before retiring to the bench as Minnesota chose not to go away in that good night.
“The first things that stick out to me are the four steals, a block and great defense for all 39 minutes he was out there,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “To perform on that end of the floor and anchor us and then still go for 50, in what I feel is an old-school, smash-mouth way of getting 50 … No threes, right? 20-for-29 [from the field] and did it at the free-throw line. Post-ups, offensive rebounds, crashes, all those types of things – just an old-school performance and one for the ages.”
While Davis was the obvious star of the night against the Timberwolves, James, the Lakers’ conductor, didn’t play too shabby himself. James’ contribution of 32 points and 13 assists was another ho-hum, low-key and spectacular performance turned in by the Lakers’ leader. Davis and James scored 82 of the Lakers’ 142 points between them.
After the game, James talked to reporters about the chemistry he has with Davis.
“Well, for me and AD, it starts with us,” James said. “If we’re on the same page, it makes it a lot easier on the rest of the ball club and that’s both on and off the floor. We’re just trying to lead by example, lead by and command by our voices, lead by our play and see where it takes us. It’s been pretty good for us so far.”
As a team, the Lakers shot at a 58.5 percent clip from the field, making 55 of the 94 shots they attempted. Davis converted 20 of his 29 shots from the field and made good on all 10 of his free throw attempts to reach his 50-point night.
“It was very special to do something like that in front of these great fans, with this historical franchise and with my teammates, especially with the way we’ve been playing. It was nothing but amazing,” Davis said.
But this was not a one and done deal. As great as Davis and James played, Minnesota is just a reminder of how tough it is to play in the Western Conference. The Timberwolves shot nearly as efficient from the field as the Lakers, hitting 51 percent of their shots and kept hanging around until the final period where the Lakers outscored their visitors, 32-22.
“You have to give credit where credit is due,” Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “There’s going to be games like this when the team is just shooting well, and they shot really well. They made the easy ones we gave them. They made the hard ones as well. They’re a great team and they’re playing really well. When I look at this game, I see a team that fought a lot, that stayed in the game for a long time.”
As well as Minnesota played, Davis, outside of James, outplayed everyone on the court. When asked after the game what was the biggest challenge his team had in trying to defend Davis, Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders provided a great comeback.
“Everything,” Saunders said. “He can score inside; he can score outside. You saw it, everything.”