In Game 1 between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton looked like the best pairing on the floor because, for the most part, they were: Anthony Davis struggled to get himself going offensively and LeBron James appeared to by hampered by his ankle injury.
In Game 2, Booker and Ayton still did a fair amount of damage against the Lakers, but they were non-factors in the final minutes of Tuesday night’s contest. The same couldn’t be said about James and Davis.
With just over three minutes left on the game clock, the Lakers went on a 7-0 run to get out to an eight-point lead at the two-minute mark that started with a block by Davis on Ayton. During that stretch, Davis scored 5 points, which included a huge 3-pointer. The only other field goal the Lakers made was a tough turnaround jumper from James over Cameron Johnson.
James and Davis completely took over the game, and according to Frank Vogel, that was by design.
“They’re two of the top-five players in the NBA,” Vogel said. “We have a formula where those guys really carry a big scoring load, especially in crunch time with an army of defenders and finishers around them, whether it’s finishing at the 3-point line or at the rim. 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.”
However, even Vogel, the man who drew everything up, was in awe of what he saw on Tuesday night, particularly from James, who he admitted he’s quickly ran out of superlatives for.
“I don’t know what to say,” Vogel said. “He’s a great player, an all-time great and he shows it time and time again. There were very few plays where I felt like the ankle limited him tonight and he played bigger minutes than we wanted to play him. He really picked up the load in that first quarter, especially when AD was in foul trouble. He doesn’t typically play the whole quarter.
“For him to do that, and then play the whole fourth the way he did, and then still have the juice to make those big shots ... it takes big guts in those situations.”
Vogel also praised Davis for playing with “great assertiveness after a disappointing outing in Game 1.
“He does it in so many ways,” Vogel said of Davis. “He didn’t settle much for the jump shot, he really ran the floor, rolled hard, drove the ball hard, had the intent to attack the paint, with and without the basketball ... and was able to pick up a lot of fouls and get himself to the free-throw line. That always helps a great player get going. It was a great bounce-back game for him.”
Davis and James ended their nights with a combined 57 points, 14 rebounds, 16 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks, the fifth of which Davis accounted for all three of. Basketball may not be a two-man sport, but when you have players as talented as James and Davis, it can be when you want it to be.