Lakers beat up on Warriors without Anthony Davis’ help

  • The Lakers’ Dwight Howard, right, grabs a rebound over the Warriors’ Ky Bowman (12) during the first half of Wednesday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • The Warriors’ D’Angelo Russell, right, is defended by the Lakers’ JaVale McGee during the first half of Wednesday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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  • LeBron james of the Los Angeles Lakers (C) goes to the hoop under pressure from Draymond Green (R) of the Golden State Warriors during their the regular season game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on November 13, 2019. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso reacts after making a 3-point basket against the Golden State Warriors during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Golden State Warriors’ D’Angelo Russell (0) dunks past Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Golden State Warriors’ D’Angelo Russell directs his team during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Golden State Warriors’ D’Angelo Russell (0) passes the ball as Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso (4) and Dwight Howard (39) defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green (23) dunks near Los Angeles Lakers’ JaVale McGee (7), Jared Dudley (10) and Danny Green (14) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel yells out instructions as the team plays the Golden State Warriors during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Golden State Warriors’ Willie Cauley-Stein (2) dunks past Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers (R) looks to pass under pressure from Willie Cauley-Stein of the Golden State Warriors (L) during the regular season game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on November 13, 2019. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

  • Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers scores as Alec Burks of the Golden State Warriors watches during their the regular season game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on November 13, 2019. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

  • Golden State Warriors’ Willie Cauley-Stein, right, reaches for a high pass next to Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Golden State Warriors’ Eric Paschall (7) scores over Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard (39) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Golden State Warriors’ Willie Cauley-Stein (2) dunks past Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers slips as he dribbles in front of Glenn Robinson III #22 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers slips as he dribbles in front of Glenn Robinson III #22 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers maintains possession after slipping on the court against the Golden State Warriors during the regular season game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on November 13, 2019. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates his basket and Golden State Warriors foul during the first half at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: D’Angelo Russell #0 of the Golden State Warriors drives to the basket on Dwight Howard #39 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: D’Angelo Russell #0 of the Golden State Warriors loses the ball between Jared Dudley #10 and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: Marquese Chriss #32 of the Golden State Warriors passes as he is surrounded by Alex Caruso #4, Dwight Howard #39 and Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: D’Angelo Russell #0 of the Golden State Warriors scores past Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: JaVale McGee #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates his pass, leading to a LeBron James #23 dunk, during the first half against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: Glenn Robinson III #22 of the Golden State Warriors grabs a rebound in front of Danny Green #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers, JaVale McGee #7 and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green questions a call during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) shoots between Golden State Warriors’ Eric Paschall, left, and Alec Burks (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: Willie Cauley-Stein #2 of the Golden State Warriors passes in front of Jared Dudley #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso (4) drives to the basket as Golden State Warriors’ Marquese Chriss (32) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma, left, scores past Golden State Warriors’ Glenn Robinson III during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates his dunk during the first half against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James passes the ball near the basket as Golden State Warriors’ Marquese Chriss, center, and Eric Paschall, left, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ JaVale McGee dunks over Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green (23), Glenn Robinson III (22) and D’Angelo Russell, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James questions a call during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: D’Angelo Russell #0 of the Golden State Warriors steals a pass in front of Avery Bradley #11 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Avery Bradley, right, scores over Golden State Warriors’ Jordan Poole, center, and Willie Cauley-Stein during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr argues with a referee during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Golden State Warriors’ D’Angelo Russell, right, dribbles around Los Angeles Lakers’ Avery Bradley, center, on a screen from Draymond Green during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard, top, dunks over Golden State Warriors’ Alec Burks (8), Glenn Robinson III (22) and Marquese Chriss, bottom left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 13: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers react to a Laker basket during the first half against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES — Even when it wasn’t going smoothly, it still went well.

An example: a teetering second quarter jumper by LeBron James, mere moments after he slipped to the floor, then ran a blown-up pick-and-roll play. He hoisted a shot, hoping to draw the foul (he did). Only the shot went in, too, and James held his shooting hand hanging in the air as Dwight Howard shook his head with a restrained kind of awe.

Shots like that went in for the Lakers on Wednesday night. And far less difficult ones as well.

The team that used to be the Golden State Warriors (2-10) was steamrolled at Staples Center 120-94, cleared away like debris by the far more experienced Lakers (9-2). Though playing at half-speed at times on the second night of a back-to-back, the Lakers never lacked control – from a lob dunk by JaVale McGee seven seconds after tip-off, to the closing seconds as purple and gold streamers tumbled from the rafters into the stands.

It could hardly have been a better night to rest Anthony Davis, the Lakers’ leading scorer through 10 games (26.3 ppg), who took time off to recover from a sore right shoulder. James capably carried the load, winding up with 23 points and 12 assists in just 26 minutes.

The Lakers have been winning, but hardly with this breadth of comfort.

“It’s been a while since we had one like that,” Coach Frank Vogel said. “I welcome it.”

James, of course, didn’t manage it by himself: Everyone ate. By halftime, all 10 Lakers who had checked in had scored, and each of them wound up with at least six points by the end of the night.

This was most readily felt in the paint, where James charged in at will, and McGee and Dwight Howard enjoyed larger roles on offense. Whereas the Warriors’ undersized lineup with Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry was once its strength, without that trio of stars it was simply undersized. Of the players who took the court for Golden State on Wednesday night, only Draymond Green (10 points, five assists) played any minutes at all for the Warriors last season.

Howard and McGee combined for 33 points and 25 rebounds as the Lakers scored 64 points in the paint as a team, and 23 off second-chance opportunities. The Lakers outrebounded the Warriors by 18.

Far from being a heated position battle, McGee said the dynamic between him and Howard has been supportive.

“If I’m having a bad game, then he’s picking me up,” McGee said. “If he’s having a bad game, then I’m picking him up. If we’re both having a great game, we’re winning the game.”

The perimeter didn’t go much better, as the inexperienced Warriors hit walls against screens, were fooled by routine handoffs and pick-and-rolls, and left plenty of shooters open as the Lakers reached the 30-assist mark for the fourth consecutive game (31 total).

There was some troubling news on the injury front: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope left the game with a left ankle injury. X-rays showed no sign of serious concern, but he will be re-evaluated Thursday morning.

Following a breakout night in Phoenix on Tuesday, Kyle Kuzma kept his post-injury momentum rolling with a 7-for-12 night from the floor with 22 points, hitting contested layups and 3-pointers (3 for 6) alike. The Lakers’ outside threats, who have underwhelmed to start the season, shot 45 percent from 3-point range (9 for 20).

For the entire fourth quarter, James sat to the right of the resting Davis and DeMarcus Cousins in a long-sleeve warmup shirt, looking quite at ease himself as his team rolled to its ninth victory in the last 10 games.

“Coming off a back-to-back, it’s very easy to go into the dull stage or feel a little tired,” James said. “I let the group know that I wasn’t, and see if they was gonna feed off that. And they did.”

It was not without some sloppy ends. The Lakers didn’t look much like the second-ranked defense in the league (which they were entering the game), allowing former Laker D’Angelo Russell to score 17 of his 21 points by halftime. The early going was more back-and-forth than they would have liked: Vogel called a timeout after a 17-15 start.

But from the beginning, the Lakers’ shot-making sealed the fate of the Warriors: The Lakers went on a 12-0 run out of the timeout and went on to hit 16 of their first 20 attempts. They led by as much as 27 points.

In the Lakers’ locker room, there were no tears shed for Golden State’s fallen dynasty. James said he thought it was strange to watch the Warriors without Curry and Thompson on TV, but added, with a sharp note, that “I played them in the Finals without Kyrie (Irving) and Kevin (Love).” Kuzma called it “the life cycle of the NBA.”

“You can’t be great forever,” he said. “They’re a dynasty throughout this decade, won three rings and had a lot of success. When you play that much basketball every single year, you’re bound to have nicks and bruises and pains.”

More relatively easy sailing lies ahead for the Lakers, who play their next three games at home against the Kings, Hawks and Thunder – all of whom are languishing under .500. While Davis is expected to return on Friday when Sacramento visits, kicking around the Warriors was a positive sign that the Lakers don’t necessarily need him to lay on a beating.

KING. JAMES. 🔨#LakeShow pic.twitter.com/HYcgJ8VZAK

— NBA TV (@NBATV) November 14, 2019

“We played great defense today and it showed on offense.”@LakersReporter speaks with @JaValeMcGee after finishing with a double-double in tonight’s win. pic.twitter.com/eCwTFE2FHN

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) November 14, 2019

✨@KingJames (23 PTS, 12 AST) and @kylekuzma (22 PTS) lead the @Lakers to victory! pic.twitter.com/xxhmkNic20

— NBA (@NBA) November 14, 2019

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Whicker: Clippers survive off night, get ready to brandish their not-so-secret weapon

LOS ANGELES — Paul George, come on down.

The Clippers who launched a thousand magazine covers last month turn their weary eyes to you, maybe as early as Wednesday night in Houston. The second biggest reason anyone thought the Clippers would be That Team is ready to launch.

They held the fort without George on Monday night, as his shoulder nears full rehabilitation. They seized a 98-88 win over the leg-weary Toronto Raptors, who could manage only 10 fourth-quarter points as Fred Van Vleet had to play 45½ minutes, Pascal Siakam 43½ and Norman Powell 37.

They did even though they missed more than three-quarters of their 3-point shots and Kawhi Leonard struggled through 12 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and nine turnovers. “Almost a triple-double,” said Doc Rivers, his coach.

Four Clippers had 10 or more rebounds, including JaMychal Green’s 12 in 24 minutes and 12 in 23 minutes from 6-foot-1 guard Patrick Beverley. It was one of those substance-not-style wins that the Clippers like to put on their billboards, although the pre-eminent substance was iron.

“There are going to be a lot of those nights,” Lou Williams said. “You can’t get really caught up in whether he plays well or not. There will be some nights when he just doesn’t have it, and the other guys are going to have to pick up the slack.”

The Raptors, of course, rode Leonard to last year’s NBA championship, but everybody who played for Toronto on Monday had practiced with Leonard at least 100 times.

“We’ll have to come up with something,” Coach Nick Nurse said beforehand. “The main thing is not to give him the easy stuff, make him work for everything.”

The double-teams came early, often and with different cast members. Leonard didn’t have a field goal until the halfway point of the third quarter, when he took a rebound and motored coast-to-coast for a left-handed finish.

“We didn’t anticipate they would double team like that but you have to adjust,” Williams said. “We did a lot better job of that in the second half.”

Meanwhile, the lactic acid got inside the Raptors’ shooting legs. Van Vleet was 6 for 20 and Siakam 6 for 17. If not for another remarkable contribution from backup big man Chris Boucher (14 points, six rebounds, two blocked shots, 22 minutes), Toronto would have absorbed the blowout that a lineup without Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka might deserve. Then you add an injury to OG Anunoby that removed him after two minutes.

“We ran out of gas a little bit,” Van Vleet said. “We kind of ran ourselves into the mud. It’s one hell of a team to play back-to-back and shorthanded.”

The Raptors jolted the Lakers here Sunday night.

“They were trying to get me into some pick-and-rolls and I thought we responded to that,” Williams said. “We were sniffing it out and we sent other guys to deal with it. We did a better job boxing, stopping some second-chance opportunities.”

Toronto had only five offensive rebounds and took a 66-38 beating on the boards, 24-8 in a fourth quarter in which the world champs missed 20 of 24 shots.

Still, Nurse was defiant: “We totally outplayed the Clippers tonight. We were playing harder and executing better. Then we took the ball to the basket about eight straight possessions and came away with nothing.”

But that head-down approach, by then, was fine with the Clippers. The hosts played a bigger lineup in the fourth quarter, particularly after Landry Shamet sprained his ankle. Shamet left Staples Center on crutches but appeared to be putting weight on his foot.

With Leonard, Green, Williams, Harrell and Maurice Harkless, the Clippers shrank Toronto’s court and fought through their own 19 turnovers.

“I don’t know if we’ve played that lineup before,” Rivers said.

When George returns, the possibilities blossom. Rivers savored the thought of another team trying to double-team Leonard again. The Clippers are already fourth in the league in defensive field goal percentage and third in the league against 3-point shooting without George’s NBA All-Defense services. Now that Rivers knows that Harkless, new to the Clippers, enjoys dealing with point guards, he might go through several spiral notebooks with defensive plans.

And the Clippers have played Utah twice in the first 10 games, along with the Lakers, Portland, Milwaukee and now Toronto.

“I don’t really know what we have,” Rivers said. “We’ve got a lot to figure out, still. But while we’re doing it, we’re still winning games.”

What he’s saying is that the Clippers are 7-3, and the reason it’s OK is that Paul George is 0-0.


The Clippers improved to 7-3 without Paul George, pictured, on Monday night, but the All-Star wing is close to making his Clippers debut, at which point, they will become even more potent on offense and defense. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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Whicker: Raptors short on bodies, long on heart as they derail Lakers

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso (4) is defended by Toronto Raptors’ Chris Boucher during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet, right, drives past Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard (39) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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  • Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet (23) scores against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard (39) works for a rebound next to Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam (43) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • The Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam, left, scores against the Lakers during the second half of an NBA game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis shoots over Toronto Raptors’ Chris Boucher during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel talks to Anthony Davis during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard (39) scores against the Toronto Raptors during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis, left, blocks a shot from Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam (43) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, rear, is defended by Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis, center, drives past Toronto Raptors’ Marc Gasol (33) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) drives to the basket as Toronto Raptors’ OG Anunoby (3) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James dribbles between Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam, left, and Marc Gasol during the first half of an NBA game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ JaVale McGee (7) dunks over Toronto Raptors’ Marc Gasol (33) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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LOS ANGELES — Pascal Siakam was wearing a printed, flowery shirt that evoked images of the Panama City rainforest.

“Nice shirt, P,” called out Fred VanVleet, his Toronto Raptors’ teammate. “No, don’t button it. Not when you got that 130.”

As in $130 million, which was Siakam’s recent four-year contract extension.

His team is 7-2, without Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. His team broke the Lakers’ seven-game win streak Sunday night, 113-104, without Leonard, Green and the injured Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. Instead, mystery guests like Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson came to the fore and thrashed the Lakers by 18 points in the second half. That made the Lakers 7-2, too.

Whether the 2019 world champions have become a perennial, dropping blooms in the spring and then regenerating in the fall, will be decided as we go.

But the Raptors again are a nightmare sight for the NBA personnel directors who somehow didn’t draft them, and they showed the Lakers, even some Lakers who should have known better, that portfolios don’t win every game.

“We wanted to attack them,” said Norman Powell, who spent four years at UCLA and is now a five-year man in Toronto, waiting and working. “We wanted to make sure they knew this was going to be a hard night for them. There are a lot of guys in the league that are like the guys you saw tonight, just waiting for an opportunity. I’ve been in that spot. You’ve got some of the best players in America sitting behind some of the other best players in America.”

Siakam played through a tough shooting night and had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and his two run-outs off missed shots blunted the Lakers’ comeback at the end. VanVleet, the undrafted and nerveless guard, was brilliant with 23 points and 10 assists.

Boucher is a 6-foot-10 sliver from Montreal who played on Oregon’s Final Four team and was the G-League Player of the Year in 2019. He scored 18 with three blocks, and the Lakers’ famed rim-protectors could not control him.

After Siakam blocked a layup attempt by LeBron James, rookie Terence Davis II of Ole Miss swished a 3-pointer that put the Raptors up 12 with 3:50 left.

Davis was undrafted. Siakam went 27th in the first round. Powell was a second-round pick. Last year the Raptors were the first NBA champs who didn’t have a lottery pick on their roster.

This year they picked up Stanley Johnson, of Mater Dei and Arizona, who went eighth in his draft class. He played three minutes on Sunday, bringing his season total to 14.

“It’s been fun,” Siakam said. “Anytime you get to shoot more, it’s good, and we still have that chemistry. Guys might have left, but most of these guys have been around for years, and we know each other and we’ve practiced together.”

In this game, they flat outworked the Lakers, but there was strategy, too. Coach Nick Nurse ordered double-teams on Anthony Davis early. Whether that’s the reason Davis devolved into a long shooter in this game isn’t clear, but the offense dehydrated in a second half in which the Lakers shot 32 percent.

Green didn’t get early looks and went 0-for-5. LeBron James probably deferred too much and had five field goals.

“They’re the fastest team in the league,” coach Frank Vogel said of Toronto, “and when you don’t execute offensively, they take advantage of it.”

The Clippers took Leonard’s strength and skill away from Toronto, but the seeds he planted are still there. His relentlessness and stoicism helped the Raptors cast aside years of playoff derailment.

“I think we all learned a lot from him,” Siakam said. “He never seems to get rattled. I’ve added that to my game, too. When I miss a couple of shots, Freddie will get in my ear and tell me to keep shooting them, and I play with more confidence. I’m trying to be more of a leader, too. We still have some leaders, and I’m trying to be more vocal.”

On Monday night the Raptors play Leonard and the Clippers, with the added subplot of Paul George’s possible L.A. debut.

“We don’t get no break,” Siakam said, smiling as he moved toward the door, wearing the team colors of a pick-me-up bouquet.

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Alexander: Lakers’ extra-pass mentality is working

LOS ANGELES — Frank Vogel calls it “extra-pass basketball.” It seems like a risky concept on a team with two dominant superstars, but consider: When the best player is also the best passer, the idea of making that extra pass to get a better look becomes cooler.

Thus, there was this sequence early in the second quarter of Friday night’s 95-80 victory over Miami, with the ball zipping back and forth across the court: LeBron James to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to Alex Caruso to Kyle Kuzma for a layup. If there is justice, that sequence will have a prominent place in the Lakers’ end-of-season highlight film, no matter how this season ends.

It wasn’t an anomaly. There were a lot of “hockey assists” flying around Staples Center on Friday night, the term for the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the score. The Lakers finished with 30 assists on 40 made field goals, and they only shot 44.9 percent and just 8 for 32 from the 3-point line.

“If we shoot the ball well, we’ll probably have 40 assists, and Anthony (Davis) is looking at probably a triple-double,” Vogel said. “But he’s sharing the ball well. LeBron’s sharing the ball well. Everybody’s trying to buy into extra-pass basketball, and it’s going to work for us.”

The obvious highlight in the Lakers’ seventh consecutive victory after their opening night loss to the Clippers was a defensive effort that held Miami to 80 points, including 34 in the second half, and 35 percent shooting.

But offensive struggles often bleed onto the other end of the court and result in a lackluster defensive effort. Yet Friday night the ball was moving efficiently around the court, everybody was involved and everybody was getting good looks, and that energy carried over to the defensive end.

“They were playing that zone, trying to muck up the game coming off a back-to-back,” guard Alex Caruso said. “I had an open three. I think Quinn (Cook) had an open three. We were getting great shots, we just weren’t making them, and the hardest thing in basketball is to try to fight through that, that mental block or mental fatigue, and not let it affect you on the other end. We did that (bogged down) for a couple possessions, but then we got back into it and finished the half out.”

Attention, young basketball players: It can be a fun environment when the ball is moving, everybody’s involved and nobody is obsessed with who gets the shots or the points.

“Very fun,” Danny Green said. “Especially as a shooter, a guy who’s a floor spacer, when it (the ball) is moving I know that it’ll find me at some point. But everybody gets a fair share, fair looks.

“… Even when we’re not clicking or making shots, we’re still finding the open look and the uncontested look, which gives us a better shot at making two points for our team.”

At some point, of course, those shots had better go in. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his first five (including an airball layup) and was 0 for 3 from 3-point range Friday night, which meant he was getting booed in the arena and getting savaged on Lakers Twitter. When he broke the spell with a layup off a JaVale McGee pass late in the third quarter, the fans roared, and the suspicion was that it was facetious.

Meanwhile, Caruso is the Laker fans’ cult hero, a Kurt Rambis for the 21st century. The third-year guard from Texas A&M with the receding hairline energized the crowd with every positive play he made Friday night, and he brought the house down with a first-quarter dunk off a Caldwell-Pope pass.

“I’ve always been obsessed with dunking,” Caruso said. “As a kid, I used to jump off a folding chair when I was in fifth, sixth, fourth grade and dunk on a 7-foot hoop. … If I dunk it, it’s not like just puttin’ it in there. I try to go after it. For me, it’s just a way to get myself going and kind of keep the energy going.”

Caruso also understands that unselfish play works best when the stars buy in.

“We have so many intellectual players on our team, and the best player on the team is … I think, one of the best passers if not the best passer in the league in Bron,” he said. “So he starts that team mindset and culture of sharing the ball and finding the open man.

“When we do that, A.D. and Bron create so much attention that it’s pretty easy to just make the pass, another pass, because we’re going to have somebody open. And we have an unselfish team. Nobody on the team is gunning for theirs, everybody’s trying to win, so it makes it real easy to play like that.”

The caveat, of course, is that the offense will run through the stars, because they’re two of the game’s top five players.

“They’ve got green lights – they’ve got double green lights – to shoot whenever they want, and we want them to,” Caruso said. “It’s our role to make sure they’re comfortable and (that) we put them in good spots to do that.

“Whenever I’m out there, I just try to play with pace. … A lot of times, even if I don’t get the assist, as long as I get it to where it needs to go I did my job.”

You know what? Forget the highlight film. May we suggest the Lakers instead put together an instructional video full of great passes and offer it, free of charge, to every youth and high school basketball program in Southern California.

Come for LeBron and A.D., stay for the teamwork.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

That #LakeShow ball movement ⤵pic.twitter.com/IBl4EsPPVJ

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) November 9, 2019

LBJ gets it back from AD! #LakeShow

📺: @NBATV pic.twitter.com/v0Th3NeqXt

— NBA (@NBA) November 9, 2019

Caruso gives ➡ LeBron goes 🔨#LakeShow pic.twitter.com/unfaHyzDGW

— NBA TV (@NBATV) November 9, 2019

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Whicker: Clippers return to their gallant, short-handed days in loss to Bucks

LOS ANGELES — The main load that had to be managed at Staples Center on Wednesday was Giannis Antetokounmpo.

He played for the Milwaukee Bucks and Kawhi Leonard didn’t play for the Clippers. Despite that, the Bucks had to play deep into the final minute to win, 129-124, with Antetokoumpo blocking a 3-point attempt by JaMychal Green at the end, not long after he drove, pivoted, got fouled and hit both shots for a five-point lead.

Knowing his limitations, Antetokounmpo got rid of the ball quickly on the next trip, before he got fouled, and Khris Middleton put the Bucks up four with free throws.

The Clippers, fueled by Landry Shamet’s four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, kept coming but never had the ball with a chance to tie.

“They had us on our heels all night,” Lou Williams said, after his rare start produced 34 points on 9-for-27 shooting. “We kept coming, but they were able to keep making plays.”

Williams and Montrezl Harrell, the best bench combo in the league, both started and played more than 39 minutes. Harrell fought through long Milwaukee arms and scored a career-high 34 with 13 rebounds.

“We lost, and since we lost, you’d rather they’d gone up 25 so we could have gotten them (Williams and Harrell) out of there,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s just one of those coach’s things. I didn’t like those minutes.”

That’s because the Clippers play Portland here Thursday night. Leonard will join in after a night of “load management” in Game No. 8. Late in the game, the video board showed Leonard on the bench, in civilian garb. The reaction from Staples Center was not unanimously positive.

But Russell Westbrook did the same thing Monday night for Houston in the second half of a back-to-back, and this is 2019 reality. Leonard took 22 of 82 regular-season games off with Toronto last season and was the MVP of the NBA Finals.

It’s a withering critique of the regular season, although the Clippers might regret this loss to Milwaukee if the two teams have the same record and meet in the Finals, which would decide the home-court advantage, and that is certainly possible.

The problem for the Clippers is that they still don’t have Paul George (shoulder), for whom they traded Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a slew of draft picks. It was more of a test of the Clippers’ vaunted bench than it could handle. Milwaukee’s reserves outscored their Clipper counterparts 47-11, with George Hill making six of seven 3-point shots. The L.A. replacements shot 7 for 25.

Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo roared back from a 3-for-10 first half to score 38 with 16 rebounds, nine assists, two blocked shots, two steals and 18 free-throw attempts.

“It’s a team effort trying to guard him, because he’s so long,” Maurice Harkless said. “He’s gotten a lot more aggressive the last two years. He’s a lot stronger. He started making some open shots, which is a part of his game he works on.”

The Clippers, in fact, engraved an invitation for Antetokounmpo to take all the long bombs he wanted. He was 7 for 14, and 5 for 8 in the second half.

“I’m fine with that,” Rivers said.

“Obviously that’s the one thing that’s been missing with his game,” Harkless said. “When he takes that to a new level, there’s no telling how good he can be.”

Antetokounmpo, almost a month short of his 25th birthday, is the reigning league MVP and has evolved into a true break-the-mold force, a 7-footer who turns away the world at the rim and yet functions as a point guard. Especially on the break, his burst is so startling that the Clippers sometimes just fouled him as an insurance policy.

Harrell and the other Clippers backed off him, but Antetokounmpo drove anyway and then made plays for his outside mates while he was being double-teamed in the air. With all the space the Clippers were forced to concede, the Bucks had room to attempt 49 3-point shots and made 18 of them.

“There’s so many things that come with his size that you have to respect,” Williams said. “When he gets the ball deep, you don’t want to overhelp, and then he’s got a lot of talented players to get the ball to. It’s a difficult read.”

Shamet’s fourth-quarter spree, including a long bank shot from behind the line, was probably the biggest encouragement. The second-year man was shooting 37.2 percent coming in.

“As we continue to build this team and grow, we want to start seeing guys have big games like that,” Williams said.

Neither did Rivers have trouble finding sunshine.

“We made some mistakes, finding shooters,” Rivers said, “but generally I loved the way we played.”

That was last year’s theme, the gutty little Clippers fighting to the end. This season, the end isn’t supposed to be bitter.

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Anthony Davis dominates (40 points, 20 rebounds) in Lakers’ rout of Grizzlies

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James drives against the Grizzlies’ Jae Crowder, right, during the first half of Tuesday’s game at Staples Center. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 29: Dwight Howard #39 of the Los Angeles Lakers has the ball knocked out of his hands by Brandon Clarke #15 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of the basketball game at Staples Center on October 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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  • LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 29: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Memphis Grizzlies celebrate with Jae Crowder #99 after scoring a three point basket and getting fouled by Danny Green #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of the basketball game at Staples Center on October 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 29: Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the Memphis Grizzlies backs into JaVale McGee #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of the basketball game at Staples Center on October 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee, right, blocks the shot by Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks, right, tries to keep the ball from Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen dunks during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, center, tips the ball to score over Memphis Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, shoots over Memphis Grizzlies forward Solomon Hill during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen, right, drives to the basket as Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, right, shoots a floater over Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks, right, draws a foul from Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, right, blocks the shot by Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

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LOS ANGELES — The chants started out faintly this season for Anthony Davis, but they’ve been gathering steam.

“M-V-P! M-V-P!”

By the third quarter on Tuesday night, the Staples Center fans were standing and applauding with a more confident energy, finally firmly convinced they were witnessing the kind of greatness to which that label applies.

Forty points. Twenty rebounds. All before the fourth quarter.

Davis has long been touted for his feats on the court, but on Tuesday night during a 120-91 thrashing of Memphis (1-3), he was unofficially anointed by his home fans. In the first two Lakers wins this season, one could argue that he and LeBron James were true co-stars, but that moment – as fans showered him with adoration – was one to bask in by himself.

A 40-20 game puts him in the exalted company of Lakers big men: George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar among them. The last Laker to reach that mark was Shaq in 2003 – which begs the question: Davis can put up the numbers, but can he raise the banners to match those Lakers greats?

James seemed to think so, saying afterward: “I don’t even think he’s scratched the surface yet.”

The bulk of Davis’ work came where he was truly unguardable: at the free-throw line. He was 26 for 27 from the stripe, breaking a franchise record previously held by his new teammate, Dwight Howard (25 makes).

It seemed fitting that as Davis shattered his record late in the third quarter, Howard stood aside the lane, gesturing with his hands for the already excited crowd to get even louder.

“I mean, shoot! He needed to hear it,” Howard said of the chants. “He’s playing great basketball. We gotta let everybody know when they’re doing a good job. It doesn’t matter who it is.”

Davis did not return for the fourth quarter, his 31 minutes having already given the Lakers (3-1) the edge they needed. James (23 points, eight assists) helped finish what he started, and the Grizzlies never got to within single digits again. The Lakers wound up scoring 71 points in the overwhelming second half.

Davis, who enjoyed his fourth career 40-20 night, animated an otherwise gritty and sloppy game. The Lakers trailed for most of the first half, falling behind 15-2 after a sleepy start. While he was only 7 for 17 from the field, Davis also wound up with many of his own misses and grabbed eight offensive rebounds.

What made it more incredible: The Brow played hurt.

Following Sunday’s game, Davis had lingering soreness in his right shoulder after jamming it against the rim on a missed dunk attempt. The Lakers didn’t confirm Davis would definitely start until he had warmed up and tested it on the court 90 minutes prior to tip-off. Even during the game, Davis wore a thermal pack on his shoulder to help keep the muscles loose.

He didn’t show any early ill effects, racking up 16 points in an otherwise sluggish first quarter for the Lakers. Davis headed to the locker room to retape the sore shoulder briefly in the second quarter, but he returned and checked in for the last six minutes of the half.

“He went in the back and we’re getting close to the time in his rotation when he was going to go back in and he wasn’t around,” Frank Vogel said. “I thought all night that there was a chance that we could have to play the game without him so we were prepared to do so.”

Under the rim, Davis took a beating. The Grizzlies assailed him with limbs and elbows, but for each of the nine times he went to the line in the first half, on just as many possessions he threw up his arms toward the refs, wondering why no whistles had arrived.

“I was really just trying to figure it all out,” he said. “(My shoulder) was bothering me a lot. It was very sore, but I didn’t want to come out of the game. I just came to the back (in the locker room) and adjust some things.”

The officials sided with him more often as the game went on: He finished the third quarter with 10 unanswered made free throws, helping put the upstart Memphis roster to bed in a 39-20 advantage for the Lakers in that period, and finishing with a 22-0 run.

The more deliberate pace helped the Lakers’ defense stay stout, James said. Memphis entered the game as the third fastest-paced team in the NBA, and the Lakers ranked 26th – the second half was more the home team’s style of game.

Davis has now gone 39 for 40 at the free-throw line in his last three games.

“That’s easy money for him, and that’s great for our defense as well,” James said. “It’s great for our team to settle a game down like that.”

While Vogel called Memphis youngsters Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. future stars before the game, the Lakers’ defense bottled them up for the meaningful portions of the game. Morant finished with 16 points, and Jackson had seven, but both were saddled with foul trouble. Jonas Valanciunas finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The mood got light enough that James, in the final minute of garbage time sparked the crowd to chant his social media meme, “TA-CO TUES-DAY” as he shimmied on the bench.

What could one say? They were in a giving mood.

“It’s going to be a long season, tough process, to do what we want to do,” Davis said. “You’ve gotta have fun with it. That’s the only way to get through it.”

“We needed somebody to take over and give us a little energy.”@AntDavis23 post-game with @LakersReporter about his dominant performance vs. the Grizzlies. #Lakers pic.twitter.com/mLKpcP6rSY

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) October 30, 2019

“It just solidifies why we went out and got him, tonight was one of those games.”@KingJames on @AntDavis23, and the #Lakers defensive stops leading to offensive runs in the second half. pic.twitter.com/tRbS4IQSw1

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) October 30, 2019

Frank Vogel reflects on @AntDavis23‘s night and his ability to take over a game for the #Lakers. pic.twitter.com/cTKDQDfQIk

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) October 30, 2019

Anthony Davis is the 6th different player in Lakers history with 40 points and 20 rebounds in a game, and the first since Shaq in 2003.

(h/t @EliasSports ) pic.twitter.com/cU58CGSTkM

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 30, 2019

Bron with the chasedown. JaVale with the oop. Some things never change.

(📺: @SpectrumSN ) pic.twitter.com/D1kap1cKsG

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 30, 2019

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Whicker: Dwight Howard takes flight again as Lakers shake off Charlotte

  • Charlotte Hornets guard Dwayne Bacon, left, and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard battle for the rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. The Lakers won 120-101. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Charlotte Hornets guard Dwayne Bacon, left, and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard battle for the rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. The Lakers won 120-101. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

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  • Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Zeller, right, shoots while Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, center, defends as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. The Lakers won 120-101. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, left, speaks with David Beckham prior to an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Charlotte Hornets guard Dwayne Bacon, right, and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard battle for the rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. The Lakers won 120-101. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, center, goes up for a shot while Charlotte Hornets guard Malik Monk, right, and PJ Washington defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. The Lakers won 120-101. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier, right, goes up for a shot while Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee, left, and Anthony Davis defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham, right, loses the ball while Los Angeles Lakers guard Quinn Cook defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, drives to the basket while Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Zeller defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, is fouled by Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier while driving to the basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) dunks the ball while Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges (0) looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges, front, dunks the ball past Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley, left, and JaVale McGee during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, left, steals the ball away from Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, center, goes up for a shot past Charlotte Hornets guard Dwayne Bacon, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, speaks with head coach Frank Vogel during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

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LOS ANGELES — If he plays this way against all his former teams, that’s seven victories right there.

Dwight Howard was the puddle-jumper version of Superman Sunday night. He hit all eight shots, got 10 rebounds, blocked four shots and scored 16 points in not quite 23 minutes for the Lakers against Charlotte, which was Superman’s next-to-last stop on what looked like a farewell tour.

He was reduced to a return to the Lakers, cape in hand, and he had to promise that he would stay in a narrowly defined lane, and keep in mind that other Lakers were in charge of the flight plan.

Few groups are louder than Laker fans scorned, but the peevish booing they hurled at Howard has now turned to rejoicing. He did exactly what he was supposed to do and nothing more Sunday night.

“He was a star in his role,” coach Frank Vogel said.

“I told him at one point that we needed more energy from him,” Alex Caruso said, “and he said he knew it, and he went out there and gave it to us. We see him every day. He’s dunking like he is 21 again.”

The Lakers needed Howard, and a late punch from Caruso, and a solid fourth quarter from LeBron James to dispose of the Hornets, 120-101. They only led by a point going into the fourth quarter, but they shot 62 percent the rest of the way, and that’s when Howard got three of his blocks.

Howard would be far from the first bounce-back star to win an NBA championship, but few have been asked to overcome such revulsion. In Houston, he and James Harden could barely fit into the same arena. He passed through Atlanta, Charlotte and Washington, where he missed all but nine games with a bad back that needed surgery.

Before that, of course, he was a towering figure with Orlando, having led the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals. Eight times he was an NBA All-Star, and his rebounding and blocked-shot numbers are better than many Hall of Fame residents. But he was damaged goods, and not just physically.

“All of that stuff before, the way I played and the way I used to act, that’s not me anymore,” Howard said. “I kept telling myself that if it was 30 seconds, two minutes, 15 minutes, I was going to do whatever it took to help my team win.”

“He scored the way we wanted him to score,” Vogel said. “He was crashing, going to the basket, but defensively was where he was dominant. He was getting that above-everybody-else types of rebounds. He has shown bursts throughout camp. Tonight he was off the charts.”

The Lakers were shoddy defensively, particularly in transition, for much of the game, against a team that has a seat reserved at the 2020 lottery table. They didn’t guard the 3-pointer well, and they missed 20 of 31 three-pointers, with Danny Green going 1 for 5.

But they have a lot of Plan Bs, and a very reliable AD. Anthony Davis had 29 points and 14 rebounds, beat people off the dribble, swished 3-pointers, brought the ball downcourt, blocked shots, and kept the Lakers afloat in the first half. No matter how good you thought Davis was, he is better than that. To see him stretch himself amid all this other help, particularly when Kyle Kuzma returns, will be revelatory.

Caruso, the G League veteran and the sacrificial point guard in so many what’s-the-point Lakers games last year, had a major effect for the second consecutive game. He came into the third quarter, and somehow the Lakers started flowing. If you like plus-minus, he was plus-17 in 13 minutes.

“He is creating good problems for me,” Vogel said, smiling.

But Howard put the buzz in the building Sunday.

“The fans and I have been through a lot,” he said brightly. “I’m trying to keep the fans up with the hype at this point. I’m the hype man.

“The joy comes from being out on the court after missing the whole year with back injuries, and not being able to do nothing but be in the bed. I’m going to express it the best I can. But in order for us to win, we have to play that fourth quarter in every quarter. We can’t play around with teams like this. You saw what happened with the Clippers and Phoenix last night. They didn’t take the game as seriously as they should, I didn’t think, and they lost.”

At some point a player sees that he’s closer to the descent than the takeoff.

“Every moment counts,” Howard said. “It counts from the weight room to the training room to everywhere else. If I do my job 100 percent every night, it will put us in a good position.”

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Anthony Davis stars in Lakers win over Hornets

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, center, goes up for a shot past Charlotte Hornets guard Dwayne Bacon, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, speaks with head coach Frank Vogel during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

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  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, drives to the basket while Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Zeller defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, is fouled by Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier while driving to the basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, left, steals the ball away from Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham, right, loses the ball while Los Angeles Lakers guard Quinn Cook defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) dunks the ball while Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges (0) looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier, right, goes up for a shot while Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee, left, and Anthony Davis defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

  • Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges, front, dunks the ball past Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley, left, and JaVale McGee during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

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LOS ANGELES — You can see and touch a new car, read the features, take a test drive, and still not know all there is to know.

It takes some time airing out on the road before you fully appreciate what you have.

In the same way, the Lakers have taken that process with Anthony Davis — the 26-year-old new star of the franchise. In his first two games, he felt more like a compliment to LeBron James. On Sunday night in a 120-101 thrashing of the Charlotte Hornets, Davis finally took center stage.

Davis remains as ever one of the most dangerous players around the basket. In three straight possessions during a monstrous third quarter, Davis showcased his full rim-attacking repetoire: a dunk on a lob from James; a crossover dribble against a helpless Cody Zeller; and a pick and roll flush off another dime from James.

But what stood out was just how many ways he found to contribute. Davis also had another standout defensive night — on one possession stuffing a Marvin Williams lay-up attempt, on another poking out a steal while guarding Terry Rozier. He knocked down three 3-pointers against defenders who sagged off of him by the perimeter — but what else could they do?

Davis finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks — a full picture into his complete game. James, who spent most of the first half as a distributor (11 assists) said he was content to feed Davis at the start.

“Every game is a game for AD to eat,” James said. “It doesn’t matter who we play against in my opinion.”

Once Davis spent the night softening the Hornets up, it was James who wrapped up the win. After not scoring his first points until free throws at the 1:40 mark of the second quarter, James had 16 second-half points and led a clinching 14-2 run at the top of the fourth.

His final basket, a two-handed dunk against a parting swell of Charlotte defenders, marked the end of the road for the outgunned Hornets.

The formula, with the two stars switching off driving the team, is what the Lakers see as the key to their season. Last year, neither James nor Davis had that co-star to lean on.

“Just knowing that I’m probably gonna play the whole third and then kind of sit a little bit through the fourth, I try to tell [James], like, ‘This is your time. Just go and be you,’” Davis said. “And he’s done it the past couple games. So knowing that I was able to relax a little bit.”

It was a night for big men against the undersized frontcourt of Charlotte: Dwight Howard also had his best game so far of his second run with the Lakers, adding some shooting touch to his physical post presence (10 rebounds).

Howard sunk all eight of his shot attempts of the game for 16 points, but none got a louder reception than the first: The 33-year-old caught a lob from Danny Green and threw down a two-fisted reverse dunk, which seemed to surprise even himself.

By the second half, even Howard — who has been a more timid version of his typically gregarious self — was comfortable to mug for the crowd, adding a finger wag after a fourth-quarter block of Zeller (he finished with four rejections). Frank Vogel thought the center, a reclamation project of the team, deflected even more defensively than the stats suggested on his way to being what the Lakers have hoped: a star in his role.

“Dwight’s shown bursts like that all throughout camp,” he said. “But tonight in particular, he was off the charts.”

No one was bumped an bruised Sunday evening like Zeller, who was returning from injury: A night of banging in the post against the Lakers left him with a bandaged left eye after Davis reacted to an elbow to his jaw with an incidental swipe of his own that gashed Zeller’s brow. The Hornets forward (19 points, 14 rebounds) was credited with a foul as he was being stitched in the locker room.

There were some breakthroughs in the Lakers’ third game, one with substantially less hype than the previous two against Western contenders. Caruso again saw his first action in the second half, and wowed with several defensive highlights, led by a steal that he finished with an emphatic slam. A fan favorite, Caruso’s play has been pushing for more inclusion into the regular rotation — which might be coming after consecutive second-half subs.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the butt of fan ire after starting the season 0-for-11, ended his streak of futility with back-to-back baskets in the first quarter, the second of which drew simmering fans from their seats.

“Them two games felt like 10 games, for real,” Caldwell-Pope said, looking relieved. “But after the second game I kind of went home and decompressed. Cleared my whole mind.”

The Lakers can relate. Following a season-opening loss to the Clippers, they’ve bounced back with a pair of wins with Memphis visiting on Tuesday before the first true road trip of the season. They’re in a better place than they started, with plenty of reasons to keep looking up.

“We know who we are,” James said. “But we have a long way to go to get to that point, but it starts with our mentality defensively, it starts with our physicality, then offensively it starts with us moving the ball and sharing the ball.

“Tonight we did that once again.”

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Clippers suffer first loss, fall to Phoenix Suns

PHOENIX (AP) — Devin Booker scored 30 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. added 20 and the Phoenix Suns beat the Los Angeles Clippers 130-122 for their first win in the series in more than three years.

Phoenix (2-1) snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Clippers and won for the first time since losing starting center Deandre Ayton to a 25-game suspension after he tested positive for a diuretic.

The Suns had a 15-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before Los Angeles’ Lou Williams made things interesting with back-to-back 3-pointers.

The Clippers pulled within six on Kawhi Leonard’s 3-pointer with less than two minutes left, but the Suns’ Tyler Johnson responded with his own 3-pointer to stop the rally.

The two teams were tied at 55 at halftime, but the Suns pushed to a 91-85 lead after three quarters largely thanks to the unlikely combo of Frank Kaminsky and Jevon Carter, who combined for 17 points during the rally.

Carter started in the absence of Ricky Rubio, who missed the game because of a knee injury suffered on Friday against Denver. The second-year pro finished with eight points and six assists in 33 minutes.

Kaminsky finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists. It was an impressive bounce-back win for the Suns, who lost to the Nuggets by one point in overtime on Friday.

Los Angeles (2-1) was led by Montrezl Harrell’s 28 points. Leonard added 27 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists.

Phoenix controlled most of the first half, but settled for the halftime tie after the Clippers closed the second quarter on a 6-0 run.

TIP-INS

Clippers: The Clippers got 66 points from the bench, including Harrell’s 28 and Williams’ 23. Harrell shot 9 of 10 from the field and 10 of 11 on free throws. … Williams was called for a flagrant one foul in the fourth quarter.

Suns: Rubio didn’t play because of a left knee contusion suffered at the end of the team’s loss to Denver on Friday. Coach Monty Williams said Rubio banged knees with another player and that his knee was “pretty swollen.” … Aron Baynes was called for a flagrant one foul in the second quarter after his arm hit Ivica Zubac in the face on Zubac’s shot attempt.

UP NEXT

Clippers: Host the Hornets on Monday.

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Lakers, Clippers take center stage as NBA season tips off

The dress rehearsals are over. Tuesday night, one of the most anticipated seasons in recent NBA history tips off, and the Lakers and Clippers, intracity rivals who underwent headline-grabbing offseason changes, find themselves on the short list of contenders for the 2019-20 championship going into their season opener at Staples Center.

Neither side will be at full strength on Tuesday, the Clippers without All-Star forward Paul George and the Lakers without rising young star Kyle Kuzma, but it’s still a game that should give each side an early indication of how they might measure up and how they might go about countering certain matchups.

Having landed two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and George in one stunning July night, the Clippers open the season as the prohibitive favorite to win their first league title, both according to oddsmakers in Las Vegas and the annual poll of NBA general managers. When George returns, they’ll become a team with frightening potential on defense, especially on the perimeter.

The Lakers got four-time league MVP LeBron James the elite running mate he wanted, shipping away a slew of players and draft picks to unite him with big man Anthony Davis amid the hope that their mutual desire to play together results in unbeatable chemistry on the court. Even if it takes them some time to gel, a refreshed James knows it’s all about positioning themselves to be at their best in April, May and June.

SCNG beat reporters Kyle Goon and Mirjam Swanson have been covering both teams since before those seismic roster changes, and they’ve spent the months since writing about a variety of topics, giving our readers a chance to get to know some of the personalities who will take center stage this season, and the challenges both sides might face along the way.

Before that first jump ball is tossed, here’s another chance to catch up on some of what you might have missed:

LAKERS

• United with the teammate they both publicly wished for, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are expected to have each other’s backs as Lakers teammates, sharing the workload while holding each other accountable.

• Father Time, as the saying goes, is undefeated. The question for LeBron James – and for a Lakers franchise hoping his championship window is still open – is how long can he stave off the inevitable?

• How Coach Frank Vogel’s “sabbatical” year spent visiting college and NBA coaches around the nation rejuvenated him for the Lakers job

• Entering his third season, ambitious young Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has switched agencies, signed a shoe deal and is looking out for additional business opportunities.

• With both teams in demand for national TV appearances, the NBA and Staples Center had a tougher time than ever mapping out the schedules for the Lakers and Clippers

Lakers play down rivalry angles going into opener against Clippers

• In his second stint with the Lakers, Dwight Howard promises more accountability

• Veteran guard Avery Bradley is eager to prove himself, ready to “show the world that I’m the best perimeter defender in the NBA.”

• LeBron James and the Lakers have been doing their best to make Anthony Davis feel comfortable and in control going into a critical season

• The Lakers have plenty of competition in their guard rotation

• Anthony Davis, Lakers believe having multiple shot-blockers will aid their identity

• A closer look at the Lakers’ projected roster, including two-way contract players

CLIPPERS

• In Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers have added a self-made superstar who keeps getting better

• Can the Clippers seize their moment and challenge the Lakers for L.A.’s basketball soul?

• The Lakers and Clippers in contention at the same time has the eyes of the league on L.A.

• Against the Clippers’ defense this season, the drive to Staples Center might be the easy part

• Is there any reason to doubt, L.A.’s clearly a basketball town?

• Given their decades of futility and mismanagement, it’s hard for some to fathom … the Clippers favored to win a championship?

• When three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams speaks, his words carry weight

• Clippers hope a “brotherhood” built through group texts, fishing trips and paintball outings will prepare them for whatever adversity comes their way

• Clippers rookie Terance Mann is soaking up his time around Kawhi Leonard, Paul George

• Patrick Beverley wants you to know: Kawhi Leonard is cool but he’s “not quiet”

• The Clippers plan to retain the gritty team persona that helped attract a pair of All-Stars

• Patrick Beverley is the face of a new Clippers ticket initiative that will give between 50 and 200 fans an opportunity to purchase $10 tickets for all 41 of the team’s home games this season.

• A closer look at the Clippers’ projected roster, including two-way contract players

AROUND THE LEAGUE

STACKED OUT WEST: Beyond the Lakers and Clippers, Houston reunited James Harden with Russell Westbrook. Denver and Utah bring back strong cores, Portland might have the league’s best backcourt, and Golden State doesn’t sound ready to go away, even if the Warriors will have to wait a while to get Klay Thompson back. Here’s a team-by-team preview of the Western Conference.

TWO-TEAM RACE IN EAST? Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks were a couple wins from beating Toronto. The Philadelphia 76ers were perhaps a couple bounces from doing it one round earlier. Neither team was good enough to finish the job last season, but both think this is their time after Leonard returned to the Western Conference. They look like the favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals – where they might have to deal with Leonard again. Here’s a team-by-team preview of the Eastern Conference.

CRACKING DOWN ON FAN BEHAVIOR: After high-profile incidents involving Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Lowry and others last season – including ones involving racist taunts – zero tolerance for abusive or hateful behavior is now to become the NBA’s policy going forward. The league is changing and toughening its code of conduct for fans, especially putting those in closest proximity to the players and the court on alert that anything over the line will lead to ejections and possibly more.

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