All season long, we’ve heard the refrain.
The Lakers can’t win against good teams!
Sure, they have the best record in the West, but who have they really beat?
Well, after a dominant weekend that saw them beat the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday and snag a gritty, 112-103 win over the LA Clippers on Sunday, no one who does serious analysis is going to be saying that anymore.
The Lakers are for real. Everyone said they had to prove it, and this weekend, they did.
LeBron James, as one would expect, was huge once again. His numbers — 28 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds — aren’t even that eye-popping by his lofty standards, but as anyone who watches the Lakers play this season knows, he’s critical to nearly ever single positive thing this team does, and can make plays at the right time against anyone, no matter who is guarding him.
As James left the game, Kyle Kuzma pantomimed putting a crown on his head. And James, indeed, did prove that even at 35, he’s still The King.
Crucially, though, James wasn’t the only one to get going for the Lakers. Anthony Davis — who racked up 30 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and a block — showed up to give James a co-star against the Clippers’ superstar duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, taking charges, swiping steals for full-court drives, hitting jumpers and forcing his way inside the paint with his speed and grace as a scorer to help not just James, but to prop up the Lakers when James sat.
And as has been a recent trend, the Lakers actually seemed to win, or at the very least play the Clippers even, in the minutes James was out. Kyle Kuzma was helpful on defense and got into the action by gobbling up second-chance opportunities. Clippers cast-off Avery Bradley was a pest on defense, and showed up as a scorer too with a season-high 24 points against the team that tossed him away last season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope showed up in yet another big game, drawing a key foul on Paul George in the fourth and hitting timely baskets to end the night with 9 points.
The Lakers as a whole were engaged defensively, building an interconnected web of swarming arms to hold the Clippers to 38.8% shooting, and snap their six-game winning streak.
It wasn’t always pretty. It certainly wasn’t dominant. But these were exactly the types of wins over two contenders that the Lakers’ resume needed to offer confidence, that yes, they are very much for real, and 100% in the hunt for title No. 17 this season. That the second victory came over the team that’s put up corny marketing billboards all over their city and woofed at them relentlessly after their win on Christmas, well, that just makes it all the more enjoyable for the team and fanbase’s collective souls.
This win boosts the Lakers’ record to 49-13, and the team will now get Monday off, and then continue their home stand when they host the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center on Tuesday. They’ve definitely earned a little bit of time to relish these two wins.