The Los Angeles Lakers relied on “championship DNA”, crunch-time execution, and increased assertiveness and focus — namely from their two stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis — to take back home-court advantage from the Phoenix Suns and even their first-round series at 1-1.

In multiple ways, before and during the 109-102 win in Phoenix, the two future Hall of Famers channeled Lakers icon and recent Hall inductee, Kobe Bryant — and not just by hitting clutch shots against the Phoenix Suns with a no. 7-seeded squad (or from any seed, really).

Los Angeles controlled Game 2 for most of the proceedings. But a wild charge led by Cam Payne and Deandre Ayton vaulted the Suns in front, 88-86, with about six minutes remaining, as Phoenix Suns Arena rollicked.

Instead of succumbing to the moment or the momentum, Davis and James rose to the challenge. Or rather, they did what they're supposed to do, embarking on a combined 7-0 run over a three-minute stretch to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

It wasn't just the substance (i.e. timely buckets, key defensive plays) from LeBron and AD that resembled Kobe's legendary playoff heroics. It was the style.

In the closing moments of the third quarter, James wetted a highly advanced turnaround fade-away from the top of the arc that simply wasn't in his arsenal for a hefty chunk of his career.

Similarly, with 2:57 left in the fourth quarter, James hit a staggeringly difficult turnaround from the left corner that caused Jared Dudley and Markieff Morris to forget all about social distancing. Like Bryant did in the latter stages of his career, LeBron has turned this into a signature move:

In general, James' deep J was working. He drained 4-0f-9 from downtown, the last of which put Los Angeles up 93-84 and all but sealed the deal.

LeBron finished with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting, to go along with nine assists. All he needed was a jersey in his mouth.

Beyond the box score, his ‘09 Kobe-esque laser focus was evident throughout the ball game, notably in the let's say, constructive criticism, he gave Kentavious Caldwell-Pope late in the fourth quarter.

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As for Anthony Davis, he put the onus on himself for Game 2 in the wake of his worst performance since joining the Lakers.

After a “pissed off” practice and prepping in solitude in between games (distinct Kobe moves), AD was everything the Lakers needed him to be in Game 2: active, physically imposing, and the best player on the court.

Sporting a pair of Stardust Kobes, AD dropped 34 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, one block, and three steals in 40 minutes.

However, no number represented his overdue aggression more than his production from the charity stripe. After attempting five free throws in Game 1, Davis took a career-playoff-high 21 freebies on Tuesday, making 18. In doing so, he became the first Lakers player to attempt that many free throws, and record 30+ points and 20+ free throws in a playoff game, since Bryant in 2008.


Davis re-found his clutch gene down the stretch. He recorded a block on Ayton, then hit the biggest triple of his season to put Los Angeles up by six points with just over two minutes remaining.

Next, he sunk two free throws, forced a turnover on Devin Booker, and registered a screen assist. By the time that run was done, it was all but assured that the Lakers would host their first playoff game in front of a Staples Center crowd since 2013 with the series tied.

“He responds to games like Game 1,” LeBron said. “He’s not a guy who talks about it, he’s about it. And he goes out and (does) it. So, give him the ball early, often, and always.”

“Two of the top five players in the NBA,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said afterward. “And we have a formula where those guys really carry the biggest scoring load, especially at crunch time, and an army of defenders and finishers around them, whether it's finishing at the 3-point line or at the rim. And it's been a good formula so far, and those guys continue to show why they're great players, by stepping up down the stretch.”

James, the NBA's all-time leader in postseason games played, said he passed the blueprint to playoff success down to the 28-year old Davis. Facing the most critical juncture of the season, the Lakers' superstars followed some of Bryant's blueprint, too.