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SIM SZN: JaVale McGee shows value of playoff experience as Lakers take Game 2

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The veteran supporting cast got it done for the Lakers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

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Editor’s note: As we wait for real NBA basketball to return, we’re going to simulate the rest of the games that the Los Angeles Lakers have on their schedule on NBA 2K20.

Going into the postseason, the biggest question with the Los Angeles Lakers was their talent outside of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. For the most part, the Lakers know what they’re going to get from James and Davis, but what about the supporting cast? — would someone emerge as the third star under the bright lights?

Thus far, the answer to that question has been no, but that doesn’t mean the role players around James and Davis haven’t been helpful. In fact, a role player was the reason they escaped Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 113-104 win.

Like they did in Game 1, the Thunder came out of the first quarter like they had something to prove, making 50% of their shot attempts compared the Lakers’ 37%. However, the Lakers were able to hang around because of their 3-point shooting. They shot 4-12 from 3-point rang in the first quarter, while the Thunder shot 2-8. Four different players made 3-pointers for the Lakers in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Lakers continued to struggle from the field, and a big reason for that was Thunder head coach Billy Donovan’s game plan for Game 2: make Davis work for his shots. Obviously that’s much easier said than done, but the Thunder had the size to do it with Steven Adams manning the paint. In the first half, Davis shot 1-6 from the field.

With Davis struggling to get open, James shifted his attention to JaVale McGee, who turned into a lob threat with how much attention Davis was getting. As a result, McGee ended the game with 20 points, one point shy of his playoff career-high. He also contributed 10 rebounds and 2 blocks.

McGee’s role has been limited with Davis playing more center in the postseason, but nights like Sunday night are an example of why his playoff experience is so important. Rajon Rondo also provided some veteran help, contributing 18 points and 9 assists off the bench, the latter of which was tied for the game-high with LeBron James.

“Veteranism” might not be a stat in the box score, nor is it a skill, but it helped the Lakers squeeze past a tough Thunder team on Sunday night. We’ll see if the veterans can keep their head down and lead the Lakers to a win on the road in Game 3. The Lakers lead the series 2-0.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.