In one of his greatest games as a Laker, Anthony Davis stepped up in a massive way in Game 1 against the Warriors. Davis was dominant from start to finish on both ends of the court as the Lakers stole home court with a 117-112 victory over Golden State.
To finish off the victory after an impressive first half, Davis played the entire second half. And while he certainly looked tired late in the game, he still made plays defensively and helped the Lakers to the huge win.
It was the fifth time in his time with the Lakers he’s played the entire second half of a game, and only the second playoff game — the other coming in the bubble. After the game, Darvin Ham spoke of his decision to lean heavily on his big man.
“This is what load management is about,” Ham said. “If there’s going to be load management then we have to manage their loads in the regular season in order to push time a little further during this time of year. Postseason, everything is at it’s peak. You’ve got to pare down your rotation and you got to push your big dogs. Your big dogs got to be there early and often.
“We just made a conscious decision, we communicated on the sideline and we were able to push him on through and allow him to play the full half.”
Not only did Davis play the entire second half, he also checked in with 7:50 remaining in the second quarter and never checked out again, meaning he played the final 31:50 of the game. There were 10 full games this season he didn’t play that many minutes.
It was an adjustment made by Ham that almost certainly came as a result of what happened in the previous series. With the non-Anthony Davis being a problem for the Lakers these playoffs, Ham simply did not allow that situation to happen in the second half.
Even while the Lakers had a double-digit lead for a chunk of the second half, the previous series against the Grizzlies showed how quickly things can change. In Game 5 against Memphis, the Lakers rested Davis for a short period but that sparked a huge run that led to the Grizzlies winning going away.
In the days that followed, Ham noted he spoke to his coaching staff about rotations and the bench, while Davis noted he was physically ready to play 48 minutes against Memphis in Game 6 if needed.
The Lakers, obviously, didn’t need Davis to do that — they won by 40 points in case you forgot and even if you didn’t — but clearly he’s feeling physically good. It’s probably not a strategy the Lakers can repeat often in this series, but they also realized the importance of needing to win a game on the road and read the moment in the game itself.
The win was there to be had and the Lakers pushed all their chips on the table in the second half to grab it. It’s been frustrating at times this season with how the Lakers have load-managed him, particularly in back-to-backs. But all that was done so they’re healthy and ready to go for this very moment.
An incredible performance from Davis and a great call from Ham means the Lakers, once again, control their fate in this series by simply protecting home court.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.