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BBNBA, presented by CSL Plasma: Anthony Davis has that killer instinct

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(@Lakers)

Good morning, folks. Anthony Davis is a Stone. Cold. Killer. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.

RECAP

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS – LAL leads 2-0

The Denver Nuggets damn-near pulled off another improbable comeback against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night–until Anthony Davis happened.

Behind Nikola Jokic’s 30 points, six rebounds, and nine assists, Denver overcame a 16-point deficit to take a late lead in the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Jokic’s baby hook shot with 20 seconds left in the game gave the Nuggets a 103-102 advantage. 12 of Jokic’s 30 points came in the all-important fourth quarter, and at one point he scored 11 straight for Denver down the stretch. His tip-in on an air-balled shot from Jamal Murray gave Denver a 101-100 lead at the time and I’m still not quite sure how he pulled it off.

Following Jokic’s made bucket, the Lakers called a timeout to regroup and came out of the break with a perfectly executed play that ended up with Alex Caruso staring down a wide-open triple and time quickly running off the clock. Caruso’s errant miss from the top of the key would bounce to the corner, where Lakers guard Danny Green recovered it with under four seconds left and attempted to fire up a contested jumper. Luckily, Jamal Murray was right there and spun Green’s shot back into the hardwood and out of bounds; Lakers ball, down one with 2.1 seconds left. I think you know what happened next…

That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. ”To me, AD coming off, just flying to the wing like that, catch-and-shoot with the biggest game on the line of our season, nothing but net, it’s a Mamba shot.”

For the second time in his still-young career, Anthony Davis delivered a game-winning triple, this time on the grandest stage of them all. He poured in the final 10 points for the Lakers on top of his game-winner, finishing his night with a game-high 31 points on 11-23 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. 22 of Davis’ 31 points came in the second half alone. Not only did he drill the biggest shot of the night, but he also hit the second-biggest shot, as well. With the Nuggets rallying in the fourth quarter, Davis came in clutch with a desperation 3-pointer to end a Lakers scoring drought and extend its lead to eight with three minutes left.

Similar to what the Nuggets have experienced the entire 2020 postseason, they were forced to lift themselves up and try to dig out of another hole. And as they’ve done more often than not, they managed to fight themselves back into the affair. The Nugs were down by 16, 19, and 12 in round two against the L.A. Clippers in the final three games of that series, which they famously came back to win after trailing 3-1. In the first 24 minutes on Sunday, it didn’t look like we would even have the opportunity for a Davis game-winner; the Lakers were that dominant. L.A. led 60-50 at the intermission and LeBron James was in all-out attack mode, dropping 20 points by himself, 12 of them in the first quarter. Even with 13 first-half turnovers as a team, the Lakers were generating open looks all across the entire court. It also didn’t help that Denver turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, as well (the Nuggets have been averaging 13 turnovers per game during the playoffs), and 19 for the entire game.

Murray’s night concluded with 25 points, six rebounds, and four assists on an 8-19 shooting clip (and 2-9 from beyond the arc), but he failed to hit his magic number. Coming into Game 2, the Nuggets were 1-6 in playoff games this postseason when Murray failed to take at least 20 shot attempts. After Murray’s 19 attempts in Game 2, they fall to a 1-7 record under such circumstances. When he takes 20 or more shots, Denver is 7-1. I’ve harped on Murray having to hunt for shots in order for the Nuggets to succeed and he went through long stretches in Game 2 where he was completely uninvolved.

And how is this for a fun stat: Murray was +16 in 44 minutes played on Sunday night, which means that in the four minutes he was off the court, Denver played so poorly they somehow managed to get outscored by 18 points. That’s a problem in itself. 

Rajon “Playoff” Rondo was dishing out dimes all over the floor in Game 2, a familiar sight for the former Wildcat through his first seven playoff games. Rondo finished with only three points but added nine assists (and five turnovers) to his stat line. I can’t even count on two hands how many times I’ve seen him toss up a perfectly-placed lob to LeBron or AD the last couple of weeks. Rondo waits until one of them has a size advantage on the block, gives them a head nod, then slots a beautiful pass right at the rim as the recipient spins off his defender. There can’t be another player in the league better at that particular pass than he is. However, whenever Rondo gets a head of steam and is looking to score, you just shut your eyes and hope that the ball isn’t stuck behind the backboard once you open them. He did make the most important pass of the night, the one that led to Davis’ game-winner, but it’s a serious game of give-and-take with Rondo right now.

Game 3 is Wednesday night.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Anthony Davis (LAL)105-103 W vs. DEN3111-23 (2-4)92121+839
Jamal Murray (DEN)103-105 L @ LAL258-19 (2-9)64225+1644
Rajon Rondo (LAL)105-103 W vs. DEN31-3 (1-2)49105+621

TONIGHT IN THE BUBBLE

NO GAMES UNTIL TUESDAY

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Recruiting reporter for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR