Anthony Davis‘ impressive domination of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert in the Los Angeles Lakers‘ gigantic 123-11 road win over the Minnesota Timberwolves can be encapsulated by one sequence late in the fourth quarter.
AD, who brushed off an ankle injury scare early in the third, was still hobbling up and down the court as the Lakers held an eight-point lead with six minutes to go. Here's what happened next:
- Davis grabbed an offensive rebound over three Wolves and converted a tough bucket.
- Towns settled for a standstill one-legged 18-footer instead of taking Davis off the dribble.
- Davis easily beat Towns in the post.
- Towns air-balled a 3.
- Davis hit a short runner over Towns.
- Timeout at 4:47. Lakers lead 108-94.
AD in the Lakers W:
— NBA (@NBA) April 1, 2023
Davis scored two straight buckets after the stoppage (Mike Conley Jr. hit five free throws in between) and the game was all but over.
“Man, y'all can't say nothing about 3, man,” said D'Angelo Russell (12 points, 10 assists), referencing AD's number. “For him to roll his ankle, do all that, one of the biggest games of the year for us. That dude came out, showed toughness, led. You can't say nothing bad about that dude, man.”
The Lakers go as Anthony Davis goes, especially with LeBron James compromised (though still extremely fast) by a lingering right foot tendon tear. Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch bluntly acknowledged that Davis “kicked our a** in every way possible.”
“Everyone knows, in order for us to be at the highest level … it all starts with AD,” said Darvin Ham, echoing a sentiment he's put forth since his introductory press conference last June. “We have a team that can make some things happen, but you gotta have that one pivotal force that's leading the charge. In our case … it's AD. When he comes out and he's aggressive and we're feeding him and he's not settling — he's putting pressure on the paint, putting pressure on the rim — we find ourselves having a lot of success.
“When he's going and he's cooking, everybody gets to eat.”
Davis finished with 38 points on 15-of-26 shooting and 17 rebounds. He's averaged 28.9 points on 61% shooting, 12.1 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks over the last eight games, of which the Lakers have won five.
“I think he understood the assignment and knew how important this game was,” said LeBron. “We jumped on AD's back and he took us home.”
Davis was buoyed by key performances from Jarred Vanderbilt (12 points, 5 rebounds, effectively limited Anthony Edwards), Dennis Schroder (typical hustle and defensive tenacity), and Rui Hachimura (team-high +20, clutch post- and weak-side defense).
“They changed the game,” LeBron said about Schroder and Hachimura's post-halftime efforts off the bench.
James finished with 18 points (7-of-19 FG), 10 rebounds, and 6 assists as he continues to shake off the rust.
As is often the case, AD's aggression was contagious. Los Angeles won the free-throw battle, 24-of-30 vs. 16-of-19, which Ham credited for spearheading the win. Ham and DLo said a longer-than-usual halftime film session sharpened their man-to-man defense and ball security.
“It took a full-team effort,” said LeBron, who, like AD, confirmed he'll play on Sunday against the Houston Rockets. “We're in a good place. Sunday can't come fast enough.”
Los Angeles is 4-0 when AD, LeBron, and DLo are active, and 5-0 with AD, LeBron, and Vando. The Lakers (38-37) will enter the weekend above .500 for the first time in 2022-23 and in the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference. They're one game (in the loss column) back of the No. 6 seed — their stated goal post-All-Star break.
“We've made some huge climbs but we're not finished,” said AD. “We want to get greedy. We know the position we're in. Everybody's hungry. Not just to make the playoffs — but to make some noise.”