The Los Angeles Lakers are returning to the NBA Playoffs after a seven-year drought, a feat that would have not been possible without the blockbuster trade that saw Anthony Davis team up with LeBron James.
The All-Star duo lied at the heart of the team’s pre-hiatus dominance in the Western Conference that earned them the status of a title favorite ahead of the NBA restart. And despite the Lakers approaching the eight seeding games in the Orlando bubble with caution, ending with a 3-5 record, they undeniably remain among the main contenders in this year’s championship race.
It will be the first time in Davis’ career the seven-time All-Star enters the playoffs as one of the favorites. He made the postseason twice while in New Orleans, exiting in the first round in 2015 and the second round in 2018, both times being eliminated by future champion Golden State Warriors.
“I think the target is a lot bigger,” Davis said of heading into the playoffs with the Lakers. “When you’re the underdog, you get wins and win games you’re not supposed to, you don’t necessarily have a target on your back. But when you’re a favorite, the pressure is more on you to win games than the other team.”
As for the expectations that comes with that, Davis added, “I’m fine with it. It’s no problem for me. It makes it a little more exciting to go out and try to compete. All the pressure people talk about for our team, just try to go out there and prove people wrong.”
Despite those early playoff exits, Davis averaged 30.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 2.5 blocks in the 13 postseason games he played in with New Orleans.
Vogel calls Portland’s Lillard “the hottest player” in the league
The Lakers begin the playoffs with a tough first-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers beat the odds to secure the Western Conference’s No.8 seed after blistering performances in the seeding games and the decisive victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in tournament.
“They played at an elite level during this stretch in the bubble, at least offensively. We’ve got a ton of respect for Dame, CJ, and Nurkic, but really for their whole team and culture,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said.
“They’ve got the hottest player in the league, they’ve got great 3-point shooting, great size inside and a great coach,” he added.
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