The Los Angeles Lakers went from missing the playoffs entirely to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference in the course of just one unusual season.
Los Angeles clinched the top spot in the West with a 116-108 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday at Walt Disney World Resort. It wasted little time bouncing back from its Saturday loss to the Toronto Raptors, winning a possible playoff preview against a Jazz team that has now lost two in a row in the NBA's campus-like environment in Florida.
Anthony Davis was unstoppable, stuffing the stat sheet on both ends of the floor, and LeBron James provided enough support for the Lakers to overcome a solid showing by Donovan Mitchell.
Notable Player Stats
- Anthony Davis, F, LAL: 42 PTS, 12 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL, 13-of-28 FG, 4-of-8 3PT
- LeBron James, F, LAL: 22 PTS, 9 AST, 8 REB, 2 STL, 9-of-16 FG, 2-of-5 3PT
- Donovan Mitchell, G, UTA: 33 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST, 4-of-10 3PT
- Rudy Gobert, C, UTA: 16 PTS, 13 REB, 6-of-6 FG
- Mike Conley, PG, UTA: 24 PTS, 8 AST, 8-of-17 FG, 3-of-9 3PT
Anthony Davis Brilliant From the Start
To say Davis was not his typical dominant self in Saturday's loss to the Toronto Raptors would be a massive understatement.
After all, he made just two field goals on his way to 14 points. James was a little better with 20 points, but even he had four turnovers to five assists as the two stars combined to score a mere eight points in the first half while facing multiple double-teams.
It was clear from the opening tip Davis was going to be more of a factor Monday.
The University of Kentucky product was aggressive from the start with 14 shots in the first quarter and showed off his versatility by hitting multiple threes, scoring on the block, playing through contact, finishing a putback slam, getting out in transition, running the break himself off a steal in the third quarter and consistently flashing into open space for a facilitating James.
Throw in Davis' aggressiveness around the ball on the defensive side and Saturday's performance was nothing but a distant memory.
He scored eight points in the final two minutes of the third quarter, six of which came on three-pointers, as the Lakers extended their advantage to double digits heading to the fourth. Just for good measure, he all but clinched the game with a four-point play over Rudy Gobert after the Jazz pulled within six in the final minute.
It's championship-or-bust for the Lakers at Walt Disney World, and Monday's version of Davis makes that a reasonable goal.
Donovan Mitchell's Strong Start Not Enough
The only way for the Jazz to realistically counter the Lakers' two stars is with a notable performance from their own go-to option, and it appeared that would be the case in the early going.
Mitchell poured in 21 points in the first half alone by darting through the Los Angeles defense, getting to the free-throw line and hitting from the outside when a defender gave him too much space.
However, the Lakers made a point of swarming him whenever he touched the ball as they created separation in the third quarter. Utah's offense suffered without an injured Bojan Bogdanovic on the outside to hit threes when the Purple and Gold crashed on Mitchell, even though Mike Conley kept his team within striking distance for stretches.
Still, Mitchell was unable to replicate his quick start in the second half as the powerhouse Lakers kept the Jazz at bay down the stretch.