10. Utah Jazz (10/25/19)
After the 2019-20 NBA season opener loss, the Los Angeles Lakers needed to bounce back but in their way was a Utah Jazz team that many pegged as a potential championship contender during the 2019 NBA offseason.
However, LeBron James and the rest of the team sent a message to the rest of the league that they would be amongst the NBA’s elite with a 95-86 win, which officially marked their first in the James-Anthony Davis era.
James led the way with 32 points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists while the Lakers got a huge boost off the bench from Troy Daniels who scored 15 points with four three-pointers, but it was the team’s defense that was the star.
The Lakers held the Jazz to 20 points or less in each of the first three quarters, forced 22 turnovers, and held them to 41.4 percent shooting from the field overall. They also grabbed 11 offensive rebounds which helped offset their own poor shooting and Anthony Davis staked an early claim for 2019-20 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Along with 21 points and seven rebounds, Davis recorded five blocks and two steals against the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert. Dwight Howard also added a pair of blocks and steals as well.
Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 24 points as only three other teammates scored in double figures.
While the Lakers have struggled with inconsistency on offense, the defense has been among the best in the league and was the staple of this team this season. This game against Utah was the first proof of just how dominant this team could be on that end of the floor and kicked off a seven-game winning streak that jumpstarted the season.
9. Houston Rockets (1/18/20)
With Anthony Davis missing his fifth consecutive game due to a lower back injury, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers needed a complete team effort to overcome a Houston Rockets team desperate for a win.
After a disappointing 119-118 loss to the Orlando Magic in their previous outing, everyone came together to put forth one of their most impressive performances of the 2019-20 NBA season in a 124-115 win in Houston.
Of course, James was his usual dominant self with 31 points and 12 assists, but it was the role players who stepped up in the absence of their other All-Star player. Kyle Kuzma finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, Danny Green added 20 points and four steals, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 20 points off the bench.
Los Angeles also got major contributions from Dwight Howard (six points, 10 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals) and Alex Caruso (four points and six rebounds) while their defense was its usual dominant self.
Aside from Russell Westbrook who scored 35 points on 15-23 shooting from the field, the rest of the Rockets shot just 37.3 percent from the field. The Lakers also forced 20 turnovers while tallying 13 steals and nine blocks led by three each from Howard and JaVale McGee. However, it was Kuzma who got a ton of praise on this night.
With the Lakers trailing by six points at halftime and Westbrook already at 23 points, it was Kuzma who took on the challenge of containing the former 2016-17 NBA Most Valuable Player. Kuzma did an excellent job of defending Westbrook and sparked the Lakers, leading to a 32-17 third quarter that was ultimately the difference in the game.
Much of the attention naturally goes on the team’s two All-Star players and rightfully so but when someone has gone down, the role players have stepped up. The Lakers depth has been questioned at different points throughout the season, but they proved this game they can deliver when needed — even in a hostile environment like Houston.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (1/11/20)
The Los Angeles Lakers are built around their two All-Star players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the 2019-20 NBA season, so getting a dominant road win against a playoff team without either would seem impossible.
Except it was not as Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, and the Lakers destroyed Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 125-110 win with both James (cold) and Davis (glute) in street clothes.
Both Kuzma and Rondo put forth one of their best performances of the young season. Kuzma led Los Angeles with 36 points (15-of-24 shooting from the field) and seven rebounds while Rondo nearly notched a triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists). Overall, seven Lakers scored in double-figures including four off the bench.
The Lakers put this game away immediately, leading 41-19 after the first quarter and then 73-49 at halftime. They pushed the lead as high as 32 points in the third quarter and the Thunder never got the deficit under double-digits.
For Kuzma and Rondo to perform at such a high level did a lot to calm their doubters. The pair has been the most scrutinized players on the team for their inconsistent performances this season, but this game against the Thunder did a lot to show that they can deliver when the pressure is on — especially without both James and Davis.
The bench was outstanding with little-used reserves stepping up. Quinn Cook (13 points) and Troy Daniels (12 points) provided scoring while Dwight Howard finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Alex Caruso added 11.
While it has usually been the team’s defense to carry them, it was the offense that stood out in this game. The Lakers shot 51.5 percent from the field and knocked down 15 three-pointers. They also dominated the glass, outrebounding Oklahoma City 54-37 (including 12 offensive rebounds) and turned the ball over just 12 times.
While everyone believes in James and Davis, there have been a lot of questions about whether the Lakers have enough throughout the rest of their roster to win the 2020 NBA Finals. This game silenced a lot of doubters.
7. Miami Heat (12/13/19)
Early on in the 2019-20 NBA season, one of the bigger stories was the play of the Miami Heat.
With the addition of Jimmy Butler, the Heat rose to one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, especially at AmericanAirlines Arena where they were undefeated. So when Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and the Los Angeles Lakers rolled into Miami, it made for one of the most anticipated games of the early season and it delivered.
After a close first quarter, the Heat pushed ahead by as much as 14 points in the second quarter, but the Lakers would not be denied, dominating the third quarter and leading to a back and forth final quarter in Miami.
The Lakers were able to hold on after Butler missed a three in the final seconds that would have tied the game, ending the Heat’s undefeated home record while extending their own road winning streak to 13 with a 113-110 win.
As usual, James and Davis led the charge. James nearly notched a triple-double with 28 points, nine rebounds, and 12 assists while Davis finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks, but there was plenty of help.
JaVale McGee had easily one of his best games of the young season with nine points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 15 points and Avery Bradley pitched in 10 points off the Lakers bench.
Los Angeles was able to offset their 19 costly turnovers by dominating the rebounding 50-34, which included 14 offensive rebounds to just five for Miami. In addition, they also knocked down 12 three-pointers in this win.
Butler led the Heat with 23 points while Bam Adebayo finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists while Kendrick Nunn added 16 points and seven assists. The Heat bench also massively outplayed the Lakers bench in this loss, outscoring them 45-19 points overall led by Derrick Jones Jr. (17 points) and Kelly Olynyk (15 points).
At a time when many were questioning the toughness of the team’s early-season schedule, going into a hostile, playoff-like environment and coming out with a win was a huge sign the Lakers were just on another level.
6. New Orleans Pelicans (11/27/19)
If fans want to talk about hostile environments, they would be hard-pressed to find anything crazier than the Smoothie King Center on the night Anthony Davis made his return there in a Los Angeles Lakers jersey.
Davis vilified himself to the New Orleans Pelicans and their fans after requesting a trade a couple of weeks before the 2018-19 NBA trade deadline and fans were ready to let him have it in his highly-anticipated return.
The Lakers were intent on making sure Davis had a performance to remember but in doing so got away from their normal game plan, allowing the Pelicans to jump ahead early and maintain that lead throughout most of the game. The Pelicans led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter and had a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
However, Davis and LeBron James decided to take over the game. James scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter while Davis dominated on both ends of the floor. Kyle Kuzma added nine points in the quarter and hit a go-ahead three-pointer with just one minute remaining. With the Lakers up by two with five seconds remaining, Davis stole the inbounds pass and then knocked down a pair of clutch free throws to ice a 114-110 comeback win.
Davis finished with 41 points, nine rebounds, and three steals while James added 29 points and 11 assists. Kuzma finished with 16 points off the bench while Alex Caruso had one of his typical low-stat, high-impact games.
Jrue Holiday led New Orleans with 29 points and 12 assists while Brandon Ingram added 23 points and 10 rebounds, but shot just 4-of-21 from the field as Los Angeles suffocated the former Laker defensively.
In fact, defense was the name of the game for the Lakers, especially in the paint as they held the Pelicans to just 40.5 percent shooting overall, despite them knocking down 17 three-pointers. The Lakers were also able to force 19 Pelicans turnovers but struggled cleaning up the glass as their opponent grabbed 13 offensive rebounds.
When the 2019-20 NBA schedule was released, this was one game that was circled on everyone’s calendar and it delivered. The Lakers tried too hard to give Davis his shining moment and it almost cost them. But when it came down to it, they turned things up and it still was a memorable night for Davis in his return to New Orleans.
5. Denver Nuggets (2/12/20)
In previous seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers have had issues with letting up ahead of the NBA All-Star Break.
Following a couple of blowout wins and with a sizable lead over their Western Conference competitors, all the pieces were there for another letdown. Add in the fact that across from the Lakers stood the second-place Denver Nuggets, hungry to prove they are among the NBA’s elite and Denver has always been one of the toughest places.
It was a back-and-forth contest. The Nuggets jumped ahead early, but the Lakers responded by dominating the second quarter, outscoring them by 14 points. Los Angeles pulled ahead by 11 in the third quarter, but Denver immediately responded with an 11-0 run to tie things up and things were nip-and-tuck from that point on.
James missed a fadeaway to win the game, sending it into overtime tied at 111 and Davis dominated from there. He scored seven of the team’s nine points in the extra period while also taking on the challenge of stopping Nikola Jokic, forcing him into a number of uncharacteristic turnovers as the Lakers escaped Denver with a 120-116 win.
James posted his 12th triple-double of the season with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 14 assists while Anthony Davis finished with 33 points, nine rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Both players were locked in and really showed their ability defensively, guarding all different positions and hassling Jokic and Jamal Murray at different points.
The Lakers bench was huge on this night as well with Dwight Howard notching 14 points and 11 rebounds and Alex Caruso adding 10 points, six rebounds, and four assists while finishing with a team-high +23 on the night.
Murray led the Nuggets with 32 points and 10 assists while Jokic finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists. However, Jokic’s struggles down the stretch were amplified as Davis took on the challenge when it mattered most and further strengthened his case as the 2019-20 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
With so many other amazing games, this one has somewhat slipped under the radar but in terms of pure excitement and entertainment, this contest against the Nuggets in Denver is at or near the top of the list. More than anything, it showed the Lakers were intent on not coasting at any point during the 2019-20 NBA season.
4. Milwaukee Bucks (3/6/20)
There was a bit of a narrative surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers that they could not beat the NBA’s elite teams.
One weekend would go a long way towards ending that thought and it began on a Friday night at the Staples Center. The two 2019-20 NBA Most Valuable Player award frontrunners faced off for the final time as LeBron James and the Lakers hosted Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks and it was a showdown for the ages.
Antetokounmpo started off strong with 10 points in the first few minutes while also keeping Anthony Davis in foul trouble throughout the first half. However, James would step up to the challenge, guarding Antetokounmpo for much of the middle two quarters and helping to slow him down as the Lakers climbed back in the game.
The third quarter was the deciding factor as the Lakers would go on an 18-0 run to lead by as many as 13. In the fourth, Davis and James completely dominated and Los Angeles held off Milwaukee for a convincing 113-103 win.
James put forth arguably his best performance of the season with 37 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and three steals while Davis shook off his early foul trouble to finish with 30 points (14 in the fourth quarter).
Antetokounmpo finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists, but the Lakers defense was able to contain basically everyone else on the Bucks unlike their first matchup in Milwaukee, which was a 111-104 loss.
While Donte DiVencenzo scored 17 points, the Lakers held Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, and Wesley Matthews to just 26 points combined on 11-of-38 shooting. The Lakers got 11 points and eight rebounds from Kyle Kuzma and eight points from Alex Caruso but much like the Bucks, it was a struggle between two of the league’s best defenses.
Both shot under 42 percent from the field and under 30 percent from the three-point line. Where the Lakers were able to make up the difference was on the glass as they outrebounded the Bucks 52-45 and forced 19 turnovers.
This was not the prettiest game but in terms of importance, it was massive. It showed that even at less than their best, the Lakers could beat elite teams and reopened a race that many thought was a foregone conclusion.
3. Boston Celtics (2/23/20)
Anytime the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics meet, it is a tense affair.
However, with both teams having championship aspirations for the first time in numerous seasons and the Celtics having dominated the first meeting, there was even more pressure on the Lakers to step up and deliver a win.
The Lakers had won four straight games and six of their last seven while the Celtics were arguably the league’s hottest team having won nine of their last 10. It was a real back and forth affair that came down to the wire, but it was LeBron James hitting a fallaway jumper with 30 seconds left to give them a huge 114-112 win over their rivals.
Los Angeles got off to a great start, leading by nine points after the first quarter and looking as if they were trying to pay back Boston for their 32-point loss suffered just a month prior. However, the Celtics would fight back mainly behind the efforts of Jayson Tatum. He was unconscious for much of the night, finishing with 41 points but only had just six of them in the final 18 minutes thanks in large part to the work of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Caldwell-Pope was one of many role players who stepped up. Kyle Kuzma finished with 16 points while Rajon Rondo added four points, five assists, and five steals against his former team while Dwight Howard chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds. But of course, it was James and Anthony Davis who were at the forefront of everything.
Davis led the Lakers with a double-double (32 points and 13 rebounds) while James finished with a near triple-double (29 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists) and Los Angeles needed every bit of it for a win.
Boston actually shot a better percentage from the field, three-point line, and free-throw line than Los Angeles and the rebounds were relatively even as the Lakers outrebounded the Celtics by only two. The big advantage for the Lakers was in the turnover battle as they forced 17 turnovers and their bench outscored the Celtics 43-11.
Lakers-Celtics always brings a different atmosphere than other games and this was one of the best meetings in seasons. Boston showed they are one of the top teams while Los Angeles shut up those suggesting they cannot beat other good teams and James let the world know he does have that clutch gene some believe he does not.
2. Dallas Mavericks (11/1/19)
With LeBron James nearing the end of his career, many are looking to see who will take the torch.
Arguably the leader of the pack is Luka Doncic, who got off to a scintillating start to the 2019-20 NBA season. And when the Los Angeles Lakers faced the Dallas Mavericks on the road in their first meeting of the new season, the leader of the current generation battled the leader of the future in a game that delivered on every single level.
Doncic and the Mavericks controlled the first two quarters, holding a 10-point lead going into halftime. The Lakers stormed back to start the third quarter with a 10-0 run, but the Mavericks withstood their push and were able to maintain a nine-point lead heading into the final quarter. However, James and the Lakers kept fighting.
James and Anthony Davis continued to push the Lakers, refusing to give in but Doncic seemingly had an answer to everything. The two teams traded baskets in the final minutes as the lead flip-flopped before Doncic found Dorian Finney-Smith for a three-pointer to put Dallas ahead by two with under a minute remaining. Los Angeles failed to score but got a break as Dwight Powell split a pair of free throws that could have made it a two-possession game.
Instead, the Lakers trailed by just three points with 6.4 seconds remaining, setting up for the biggest play.
James drove baseline while Dwight Howard set an excellent (possibly illegal) screen to free up Danny Green in the corner. James found Green near the Mavericks bench, who perfectly pump-faked, allowed Seth Curry to fly by before calmly rising up and nailing a three-pointer at the buzzer to send it into overtime at the American Airlines Arena.
The Lakers never looked back from there, scoring the first seven points of overtime thanks to James’ brilliance. Doncic responded with five straight points himself, but James put the game away with a stepback three-pointer and a pair of free throws, allowing the Lakers to hold off the up-and-coming Mavericks for a 119-110 overtime win.
James was unbelievable with 39 points, 12 rebounds, and 16 assists. Not to be outdone, Doncic finished with 31 points, 13 rebounds, and 15 assists as the two became the oldest and youngest players to record a triple-double in the same game. Davis added 31 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks while Danny Green chipped in 14 points.
This was undoubtedly the best game of the young season — an absolute classic showcasing two of the best players and an early sign the Lakers could go into a hostile environment, under pressure, and come out with a win.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (3/8/20)
Simply put, there was no game on the 2019-20 NBA regular season schedule for the Los Angeles Lakers that was more highly-anticipated than their third meeting against the Los Angeles Clippers before the eventual hiatus.
Though the Lakers maintained a better record through the season, the Clippers had won the first two meetings on Opening Night and Christmas Day, leading many to proclaim them as the Western Conference favorites.
Adding to the anticipation was that the Clippers were finally completely healthy and coming together, having won six straight games. Meanwhile, the Lakers had just picked up their biggest win of the season over the Milwaukee Bucks and were looking to cap off their biggest weekend by taking down the other top championship contender as well.
What ensued was undoubtedly the most satisfying Lakers win in seasons.
As has often been the case this season, the Lakers fell behind in the first half, trailing by nine points as the Clippers threatened to put this game away early. However, the Lakers would respond, closing the gap at halftime.
Los Angeles began to take things over at the end of the third quarter led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis as usual. They would then score the first eight points of the fourth quarter to push the lead to 12. They never looked back from there and James would stamp home that win with a thunderous dunk as the Lakers vanquished the Clippers 112-103 to stake their claim as the championship favorites heading into the 2020 NBA playoffs.
James furthered his growing 2019-20 NBA Most Valuable Player case with 28 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists while Davis led the Lakers with 30 points, but the player of this game was Avery Bradley. Bradley scored a season-high 24 points and knocked down six three-pointers in what was easily his best game in a Lakers uniform. It was also more proof the team’s biggest strength — their defense — can ultimately deliver on the biggest stages.
The Lakers held the Clippers to just 39.5 percent shooting from the field and an abysmal 22.6 percent from the three-point line. The Lakers also forced 15 turnovers, which eclipsed their total number of assists (12).
Paul George led the Clippers with 31 points and Kawhi Leonard added 27 points but aside from Montrezl Harrell, the rest of the Clippers supporting cast was non-existent thanks to Bradley and the Lakers suffocating defense overall. Harrell scored 20 points, but his fellow Clippers role players combined for just 22 points on just 9-of-42 shooting.
In terms of entertainment from a pure basketball perspective, there may have been a game or two better than this one. However, when considering the anticipation surrounding this game, the energy in the Staples Center, and the satisfaction of defeating a full-strength Clippers team, there was no better game in the regular season than this one.