The Los Angeles Lakers took care of the Washington Wizards early on Sunday night, blowing them out 130-119. Anthony Davis continued his recent dominant run, setting a new season-high in scoring for the second consecutive game and establishing a new Laker-high with 55 points (his career-high is 59) to go with 17 rebounds on the night.
LeBron James added a “quiet” 29 points, 8 rebounds in his 34 minutes of play, and Lonnie Walker IV continues to make the case as the third-best player on this team with 20 points on 70% shooting. All three helped the Lakers move to 10-12 overall, and undefeated to start this road trip.
L.A. started the game off right with three-pointers from LeBron and Walker. In the first ten games of the season, they averaged 22.3% from deep and in the last ten, they’ve improved to 37.2%. For Washington, the game changed early when Bradley Beal injured his hamstring. He went to the locker room and never returned. Los Angeles was able to secure a comfortable six-point lead after one, partly because Davis also came out strong again, scoring 10 points in the first. The Lakers are still sub-.500, but if he continues this trajectory, he will be in MVP talks and could make 2002-23 a career year.
Up by six entering the second, the Lakers never took their foot off the gas. They extended their lead to 21 at one point and ended the half ahead, 68-50. Daniel Gafford attacked the paint during the non-AD minutes and scored the first 8 points of the quarter for Washington, but that was the only bright spot the Wizards had in the first half. LeBron and AD were sensational, with a combined 39 points, 12 rebounds and each had a plus/minus of +16. With both playing this well, victory felt inevitable.
And it was, although not before a bit of a late scare. Los Angeles started the third on a 13-4 run as Washington had no answer for the Lakers’ offensive firepower. Walker was hot from three, going 4-4 from downtown and having two highlight dunks in the quarter. AD continued to terrorize the Wizards with putback dunks and offensive rebounds, all while scoring a key basket anytime the Wizards made anything that resembled a run. He had 16 points in the quarter and with the Lakers up by 24 after three, the game appeared to be in the refrigerator.
But Washington still had some fight in them and got the deficit as low as 11, but the advantage the Lakers had built earlier was ultimately too much to overcome. Lakers head coach Darvin Ham took key timeouts whenever the Wizards got going, and the Lakers were able to permanently close the door thanks to AD continuing to dominate the paint. He had a great series of offensive possessions where he dunked on a James alley-oop, converted a layup via a Westbrook assist and passed to James for a highlight slam.
It's the first time AD's had B2B 40-point games since Dec. of 2018.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 5, 2022
With Davis back flirting with a career year and James still being a top 20 player, the Lakers have been playing their best basketball since the 2020-21 campaign. This road trip could not have started better and the question remaining now is simple: How much more can this team improve?
To maximize potential, you have to eliminate poor performers. Patrick Beverly (a +5 on the night, but the only starter not in double digits in that stat) is a clear weak part of the rotation and still earning double-digit minutes. Can he improve? Is there an alternative to him playing this much? Another player who has been a disappointment is Kendrick Nunn, and it looks like Ham agrees, giving him a DNP-CD on Sunday. He might be on the outside looking in on this Laker rotation. If Ham can find ways to give those two’s minutes to someone else — or if the front office can package them in a trade for a more productive player (or players) — that might help the Lakers take another step in the right direction.
Los Angeles is on a roll during this trip and will have a chance to go 3-0 on Tuesday when they face Cleveland. The Cavs will be a tough test, though, as they are 15-9 on the season. We’ll see how the Lakers handle it.