In a game that certainly lived up to the hype, the Los Angeles Lakers ultimately pulled out a win against the Golden State Warriors in the Play-In Tournament, setting themselves up as the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
Things did not go the Lakers way in the first half as they missed several open looks from the floor and did a poor job defensively getting out to the Warriors shooters. LeBron James and Anthony Davis, in particular, were horrid as they shot a combined 2-of-15 at one point.
It was clear the Lakers were playing through a bit of nerves and were being affected by the game pressure, but Davis believes that because they were able to pull out a victory that they can build on it and get back to playing their normal style of basketball.
“This is a hell of a team and the entire time we were in the locker room, the first half we were playing a little hesitant, even myself,” Davis admitted. “You’re playing a little hesitant because of the situation, there’s no, I mean there is a next game, but there’s no next game, right? So we came out a little hesitant and we had to remind ourselves at halftime like we’ve been here before, let’s go and play our style of basketball.
“And we were able to do that in the second half so we had to find that swag again, find our swag, knowing that we’re the defending champs and nothing’s gonna be easy for us because we do have a target on our back and every team wants to beat us. So we got to know that and we got to come out a lot better than we did against Phoenix in that playoff series.”
It seemed like the big man really got going after some trash talk between him and Jordan Poole. The two were eventually called for double technical fouls and Davis acknowledged that it lit a fire under him, as well as a similar situation with LeBron James and Juan Toscano-Anderson.
“I didn’t know they had a little thing back and forth but yeah, you never want to poke the bear. It’s funny, I told Jordan Poole that too when we both got the double techs, I came down and hit the midrange and I said ‘you done woke me up!’ So it’s playoff basketball, that’s what’s gonna happen. Anderson did the same thing with Bron and we’re confident enough in our games, especially when we’re struggling that you never want to poke the bear. That’s playoff basketball, we love it. We love it. So it’s fun to trash talk and kind of get ourselves going, it’s fun to have our hands back for runs that we did make to hear that crowd come in and be loud in the arena. So it was the atmosphere and environment from the crowd and on the floor of playoff basketball and what everyone expected it to be.”
The second half was a much different story as the Lakers looked much more engaged defensively and offensively found more success getting to the paint and finishing around the basket. Head coach Frank Vogel opted to play Davis more at center and the team subsequently went on a large enough run to capture the lead.
Davis had 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, and he explained why the game opened up so much for him late after a rough first half.
“Just being more patient. I know Dray wants to be physical and fight in the post. It wasn’t my best game in the post so I just tried to find other ways to score and other ways to help the team so I started spacing out and we started doing small pick-and-rolls knowing that he’s a good defensive player that tries to help a lot. He helps off me and goes to try to help his teammates no matter where he is on the floor and I just took advantage of that knowing where he is and if I follow him to the rim I can get dunks and layups and offensive rebounds.
“So that’s all I really did and it was a good adjustment from my end, from the coaches’ end to see that. But it’s always battles between me and him. I think he got me tonight but I for sure got him in other series’ before this so it’s fun playing against him because he’s gonna make me work. But I just tried to make the adjustment towards the end of the game and find ways to score the ball a little easier.”
Although there are clearly issues to still iron out, the Purple and Gold were able to overcome a sluggish first half and take a game they could have easily lost. Hopefully this is the game that sparks their title defense.
Davis praises Drummond for staying engaged despite limited role against Warriors
The center rotation for the Lakers has been a hot topic of debate but it did not matter against the Warriors as Davis at the five solves all of their problems. While Andre Drummond still drew the start, it was clear he was not playable given Golden State’s ability to play him on both ends.
Drummond only played 17 minutes and it is likely his role will fluctuate depending on who Los Angeles faces in the postseason. Davis gave him credit for staying engaged though while on the bench.
“Yeah for sure, Drumm was dominant tonight in the minutes that he played. They’re just a special group, they played Draymond a lot at the five with four guards and so it kind of put us in a little disadvantage on the defensive end,” Davis said. “Drumm is not used to making those rotations and things like that so we just made an adjustment. The good thing about our team, everyone knows their role. If we make an adjustment mid-game where we go small and I’m at the five, no one is complaining, no one is upset because at the end of the day it’s all about winning. So he understood that. He understood no problem, he was up on the bench cheering for us and helping us out from what was his perspective on the floor and we were able to get the win.
“Locker room was great so we got a great group of guys to kind of understand that. Same way as last year. So it might be other games where we do the same thing, it might be games where we go big with Drumm at the five and I’m at the four, so it’s all about matchups and tonight was one of those nights.”
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