Coming off of one of the most difficult championship runs in NBA history, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are easing their way back into the swing of things this season. However, they’ve been able to lock in when the Los Angeles Lakers have needed them to, and more often than not, that’s been in the fourth quarter.
James and Davis have posted a net rating of +23.4 in the 144 minutes they’ve played together this season, but they’ve been at their most effective in the final frame. In the 28 minutes they’ve played together in the fourth quarter, James and Davis have posted a net rating of +29.4. That’s significantly less than their second quarter net rating (+46.3), but the sample size is much smaller. In fact, James and Davis spend the fewest minutes together in the second quarter.
You don’t have to look at advanced stats to understand James and Davis’ impact in the fourth quarter, though. A simple eye test will confirm that James and Davis like to take over in the fourth quarter, and Davis talked about why they’ve been so successful in doing that after the Lakers’ 94-92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.
“We just kind of go into our pick and rolls,” Davis said. “We go into our mid and sideline pick and rolls, and he’s a great reader, and he makes the plays. If he’s got two guys on him, he makes the pocket pass or the skip pass. If he has just the big, he usually goes and finishes or brings it back out in isolation basketball.
“He’s a great guy who knows how to read defenses very well, and it’s our job to close the game and play in the fourth quarter on both ends of the floor, not just on the offensive end,” Davis continued. “We did a great job of that tonight.”
In that game, James and Davis scored 17 of the Lakers’ 27 points in the fourth quarter. They also locked in the defensive end, posting the second and third-highest defensive ratings on the team in the fourth quarter. Montrezl Harrell posted the highest defensive rating (66.7), albeit in just 3:44.
The term “flip the switch” has been used to describe the way James and Davis have delivered for their team in the fourth quarter as of late, but Davis doesn’t think that’s fair to them or their teammates.
“When you’ve got playmakers and scorers on the floor, it’s very easy for us,” Davis said. “We don’t really like to use the term flip the switch. We want the switch to be on at all times. But it’s good to have guys who can make plays for us, especially late game on both ends of the floor, and it starts with me and LJ. And like I said, his ability to pass the ball and read defenses is unreal.
“Even when we don’t got it, we know that late game that’s what we’re going to go to. We’re going to put the ball in his hands or my hands, and we’re going to live with that, whether we make shots or miss shots, we’re going to live with us making the plays for ourselves and others.”
Whatever it is James and Davis have been doing in the fourth quarter, switch-flipping or not, has helped the Lakers maintain their status as the top dog in the Western Conference. Until it stops working, or until the postseason starts — whichever comes first — expect James and Davis to continue to look the most like themselves at the end of games, when the Lakers need them to come through most.