Despite a sloppy showing throughout much of the second half, the Los Angeles Lakers escaped Game 2 with a narrow 105-103 victory over the Denver Nuggets to take a noteworthy lead in the Western Conference Finals.
The Lakers were in full control to begin the game as their normal brand of suffocating defense limited the Nuggets, while LeBron James had it going from the field. James scored 20 of his 26 points in the first half, taking advantage of defenders with shots from beyond the arc and tough drives to the rim.
While James began to fade in the second half, Anthony Davis picked up the scoring burden as Denver had no answer for whatever he wanted to do. Davis had 31 points on the night, but his biggest contribution came in the final seconds as he drilled a buzzer-beater 3-pointer to give Los Angeles the win.
Wearing the popular “Black Mamba” jerseys, it was only fitting that Davis yelled out Kobe Bryant’s name on the final shot. “He’s hit countless shots like that to win games, whether it’s in the playoffs, Finals,” Davis explained.
“But it was a special one for me. Special one for my teammates. I told ‘Bron, in L.A., right before the hiatus against the Brooklyn Nets, same spot, slightly different play and I missed a shot. I was upset with myself. And he said, ‘Man, we’re going to live or die with you shooting that shot.’
“I got same opportunity tonight. Ready to make it. Special moment for me. Special moment for the team. Especially in a situation like trying to go up 2-0 against a special team who are great competitors and going to fight for the entire 48 minutes. To do something like that, and with the jersey we wore tonight, it just makes it even more special.”
It is purely a psychological thing, but the Lakers seem to play with a different edge and swagger when donning the black jerseys as they are now 3-0 in the 2020 NBA Playoffs when wearing them.
“Our swagger is a little different. Every time we put on those jerseys, obviously we’re representing him. Especially in those jerseys, it’s his jersey, one he created, and any time we put it on we want to win,” Davis said.
He and Nikola Jokic battled in the final minutes, each hitting big shots and toggling the lead. Jokic was able to get a contest on the final play, but Davis made sure to get the shot off before he could truly affect it.
While the win is something the team will happily take, it was also a good reminder that Denver is fully capable of winning when given openings. Markieff Morris acknowledged that the Lakers are mindful of how dangerous the Nuggets can be, but they will need to be sharper heading into Game 3.
Frank Vogel said Davis’ game-winner was “Mamba Shot”
After the tragic death of Bryant earlier this year, the Lakers have cited his name several times during this postseason as a source of inspiration.
Bryant’s influence on the franchise can not be understated and it seems it be fueling the team in critical moments. Head coach Frank Vogel noted that Davis’ buzzer-beater was reminiscent of Bryant and the mentality he carried on and off the floor.
TNT cameras caught Vogel referring to Davis’ heroics in the locker room as a “Mamba shot.”
“We want to embody what Kobe Bryant stood for and honor his memory. There’s certain games we’re going to feel it more than others. When we have that uniform on, I think we feel it more than others. That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit,” Vogel explained.
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