LeBron James and Anthony Davis put on a show for the LA Lakers in their 112-111 win over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday. The Lakers trailed most of the game until midway through the fourth period. Davis, in particular, came up big for the team, impacting the game on both ends of the court.
He bagged 31 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks. AD also came away with the clutch game-winning board to seal the Lakers' one-point win. He also made a clutch block on Tyrese Haliburton with 16 seconds left and the Lakers up one.
James had 26 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists himself but reserved high praise for AD, highlighting the importance of his presence, saying (via Lakers Daily):
"He's a Defensive Player of the Year player every night. Our confidence is extremely high when we know we have AD on the back line."
The Lakers thoroughly missed Anthony Davis after he was sidelined for 20 games over five-and-a-half weeks due to a foot injury. LA found their identity offensively in his absence, but their defense was leaky.
The lack of rim protection had the Lakers' defense scrambling to get stops, but they have been clinical with Davis leading the charge as the man in the middle. The Lakers' perimeter defense is solid in AD's presence, as they can close out shooters better.
His versatility also makes life easier for LeBron James on offense, as he doesn't have to shoulder the burden of leading the team. The duo once again proved that they are one of the top tandems in the league when healthy.
Anthony Davis remains key to LA Lakers' success
The LA Lakers won the championship in Anthony Davis' first season with them. AD was available for most of the year, playing 62 of 71 games. He dominated on both ends of the floor, averaging a team-high 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game.
LeBron James got the All-Star support he needed alongside him needed to help the Lakers return to championship success. Together, they led the team to the No. 1 seed in the West that season. LeBron and AD led the Lakers to a 16-5 run en route to their title win.
Davis averaged 27.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in the postseason and was close to winning the finals MVP. Just when the Lakers thought they had secured the roadmap to achieving more title success with their two superstars, AD's injury issues cropped up.
Anthony Davis has played only 76 games across the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. The Lakers suffered a first-round exit in 2021 and failed to make the playoffs the following year, finishing with a 33-49 record.
Davis also struggled with his form during those years. However, he has played at an MVP-caliber level during the 2022-23 season, averaging 26.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game so far. Apart from his foot injury in mid-January, Davis has looked healthy.
The LA Lakers have competed toe-to-toe against top contenders in Anthony Davis' presence, making him the key to their success this year. The Lakers are currently 12th in the West with a 25-28 record, 2.5 games behind the sixth spot, and a game behind the 10th spot.