The Los Angeles Lakers demonstrated why they are dangerous No. 7 seed.
They have a dominant big man in Anthony Davis.
They have LeBron James.
They have complementary players.
They can put up points, and they can defend.
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All of that was on display in the Lakers’ 126-112 road victory against Memphis in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series on Sunday.
Five Lakers scored in double figures, led by Rui Hachimura’s playoff career-high 29 points. Anthony Davis had 22 points, 12 rebounds and playoff career-high seven blocks; LeBron James had 21 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals; Austin Reaves had 23 points in his first playoff game and D’Angelo Russell added 19 points.
NBA PLAYOFFS:Lakers make big run to beat Grizzlies in Game 1
It was the first time the Lakers had four players scored at least 20 points in a playoff game since 1988 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Byron Scott and James Worthy did it.
The Lakers ended the game with a 15-0 run.
It was an offensive display with 69 points coming in the final two quarters against the league’s No. 3 defense led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr.
Don’t discount Los Angeles’ defense either. In the final two months of the season, the Lakers had the third-best defense in the league, coinciding with trade deadline deals for Hachimura, Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley. The Lakers blocked 11 shots and held Memphis to 47 points in the second half, including 22 in the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles’ victory quickly changed the tenor of this series. This wasn’t a normal 2-7 series, given the Lakers’ experience with James and his four NBA titles. They are capable of winning this series, and if Memphis star Ja Morant’s injured right hand continues to bother him, the Grizzlies are in trouble.
They might be in trouble even with a healthy Morant.
Los Angeles went through its own injury scare late in the first half when Davis suffered an injury to his right arm. He mouthed, “I can’t feel my arm,” which was troubling for the Lakers and their fans. But it was diagnosed as a stinger – painful at first but it resolves quickly most of the time – and he returned in the second half.
The Lakers needed a collective effort, but their success in this series depends on Davis. They don’t win if Davis isn’t scoring, rebounding and protecting the rim.
There is pressure on Davis in the playoffs. James can still perform, and he had chase-down blocks and powerful dunks that a 20-year veteran shouldn’t be making. But the Lakers go as far as a healthy Davis takes them.
He has been spectacular since the All-Star break. In his final 21 games of the regular season, Davis averaged 25.8 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks and shot 56.6% from the field. That’s what the Lakers need.
Memphis has a formidable big in Jackson, and he delivered with 31 points.
But it was Davis’ all-around performance that put Los Angeles in position to have a chance in Game 1.
The Lakers aren’t exactly playing with house money. They not only want to win this series, but they also want to make a deep run.
Davis is capable of making that happen.