All it took was 45 seconds. Less than a minute was all Anthony Davis needed to reassert his dominance and show just how quickly he can turn things around for the Lakers.
First, Davis slammed home a basket with 45.9 seconds left in the third quarter. Then his shot block on the other end started a fast break that led to an And-1 basket for Dwight Howard, allowing L.A. to end the third frame with an 87-80 lead. It was a small sequence, but one that nevertheless completely turned the momentum around for the Lakers, who promptly ripped off a 17-2 run to cruise to a blowout, 120-101 win.
Davis — who finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks — wasn’t the only catalyst, though. His fellow star LeBron James shook off a slow scoring start to end the game with 20 points and 12 assists, while Alex Caruso and Howard played key roles off the bench.
For the second game in a row, Caruso getting subbed in for the first time in the second half completely shifted the defensive fortunes of the Lakers, and the hustle of him and Howard energized the Lakers into a swarming storm of endless arms to force turnovers and misses as L.A. pulled away.
Caruso wrapped up the game with 5 points and a +17 in plus-minus, while Howard continued his improbable resurgence into a fan-favorite with 16 points and 10 rebounds on a perfect 8-8 shooting. Even Kentavious Caldwell-Pope broke out of his season-starting slump a bit with 10 points on 4-8 shooting, and the Lakers continue to be undefeated in games in which KCP scores.
As teams with frontcourts as large as the Lakers’ are wont to do, the purple and gold thoroughly dominated the Hornets in the paint, outscoring Charlotte 74-44 around the cup. Points in the paint disparity will be a stat to watch for the Lakers this year, and likely a bellwether for how well they’re playing.
This win brings the Lakers to above .500 for the first time this season, their first time starting a season 2-1 since 2010. No one is going to celebrate a win against the Hornets too hard, but the Lakers took care of one of the teams they needed to, and after last season, that qualifies as progress.