Alexander: This is why Anthony Davis is a Laker

  • Los Angeles Lakers players celebrate at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) tries to block a shot by Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James sits on the bench during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone reacts on the bench during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) drives past Denver Nuggets’ Jerami Grant (9) during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray (27) celebrates during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) drives to the basket around Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso, right, during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) celebrates after an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammate Anthony Davis (3) after an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) watches his last second 3-point basket between Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) and Jerami Grant (9) in an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) drives past Denver Nuggets’ Jerami Grant (9) during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers players celebrate at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) tries to block a shot by Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammate Anthony Davis (3) after an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) reacts after making a 3-point basket during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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The seeds of Sunday night’s madness in the Orlando bubble, and the latest addition to the Laker franchise’s gallery of postseason moments, were planted June 15, 2019. That was the day the Lakers landed Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, the day Davis and LeBron James got their wishes, and the day that sometimes quixotic quest for the franchise’s 17th title again got serious.

“This,” Davis told TNT’s Allie LaForce Sunday evening, “is what they brought me here for.”

Davis’ buzzer-beating three-pointer – officially a 26-footer according to the play-by-play sheet – for a 105-103 victory over Denver didn’t win a championship or even a series. There is still way too much work to do during this Western Conference Finals showdown with the stubborn Nuggets, never mind anything beyond that.

But given the circumstances  – down a point, 2.1 seconds left when the ball was inbounded, against a team that has established it has no quit in it – this may have been the most inspiring L.A. walkoff since … well, you’ve got Kirk Gibson’s home run in 1988, Alec Martinez’ Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Kings in 2014, Robert Horry’s shot to beat Sacramento in the 2002 Western Conference Finals and Tyus Edney going the length of the floor for UCLA against Missouri in 1995. Not too many others leap to mind.

Not to brag, but I wrote it last summer, the day the trade went down:

This is what the Lakers should be doing. It’s part of their DNA … (It) tells their fans and their city that this franchise still means business, even if there is still reason to question their front office structure.”

Nobody is questioning it now, of course. Moments like this – and in fact a season like this, elongated as it has been – have created a collective amnesia about those seven seasons in the playoff desert, those years when we sometimes weren’t sure exactly what the Lakers stood for beyond the gauzy memories of the past.

Games and series like this remind us of what that franchise does stand for. And there is but one regret about this particular buzzer-beater.

“The one thing I wish A.D. had tonight with the shot that he made, I wish we were playing at Staples,” LeBron James said. “I mean, we miss our fans so much. And I can only imagine. It probably would have blew the roof off Staples Center, A.D. hitting that shot tonight in Staples with our crowd. I would have loved for him to have that moment, because I know what it felt like for me.”

James’ reference was to Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference finals, when he hit a 25-footer with no time left, at home, to give Cleveland a 96-95 win over an Orlando team led by current Laker teammate Dwight Howard. But I suppose we should stop that comparison right there, because Orlando won that series in six (en route to losing in the Finals to the, um, Lakers).

Davis wanted this type of pressure, and this type of responsibility. That’s why he forced his way out of New Orleans. The Pelicans got to the second round once while he was there, but there was no assurance that it was going to get any better.

“Just because his teams haven’t been good enough to reach this moment (before now) doesn’t mean that he’s not that caliber of player,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We saw that tonight. No surprise (to) me. No surprise (to) our whole group.”

There were no guarantees in L.A., either, when he arrived. But Davis teaming up with James provided the 1-2 punch that enabled Rob Pelinka to fill in around them, and the general manager has gone from presumed doofus to an Executive of the Year candidate – and I’d assume inquiries about his ring size – as a result.

The shot Davis made Sunday night was similar to one he took in the Lakers’ last pre-pandemic game, a three-pointer in front of the visitors bench with time running out against Brooklyn on March 10. That one he missed, in a 104-102 loss.

“LeBron will tell you,” Davis recalled. “I mean, probably the first four days I was like, ‘Damn, I should have made that shot. I’ve got to make that shot.’ He said, ‘You’re fine, you’re fine.’

“But I put more pressure on myself than anybody. I feel like every shot I take is supposed to go in, and I have enough confidence in my shot to make those type of plays.”

This one, he acknowledged, was the biggest of his career, and his first buzzer-beater for a victory. Again, that’s why he’s here.

“When I left (New Orleans) I just wanted to compete for a championship, and I know that moments like this come with it, especially in L.A., the biggest market in basketball,” he said.

It’s part of the Lakers legacy. And so is this: The Lakers wore their “Mamba Black” uniforms Sunday night, and Vogel was caught on the telecast telling his team it was a “Mamba shot,” one that Kobe Bryant would hit.

“We just play a little different” in those jerseys,” Davis said. “Our swagger is a little different. Every time we put on those jerseys, we’re representing him.

“Coach made sure we knew that in the huddle. He said, ‘Look at the jerseys you have on. He would have made big-time plays. So it’s time for us to make big-time plays.’ “

Done.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

 

 

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Chargers vs. Chiefs updates: AFC West matchup at SoFi Stadium

The Chargers host Kansas City Chiefs for the franchise’s first home game at SoFi Stadium at 1:25 pm Sunday on CBS.

A Twitter List by JHWreporter

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Kiszla: Yes, the Nuggets got punked by Lakers and NBA refs, but whining won’t win the series

The Nuggets got punked. By King James. And by NBA refs.

Cry foul into a crying towel, if you want. Whining about life (or the refs) not being fair won’t get Denver anywhere but a one-way ticket out of the playoffs.

After getting dunked on and dissed during a 126-114 loss in Game 1 on Friday in the Western Conference Finals, it’s obvious that the league regards the Nuggets as little more than props in this Lake Show, starring James and Anthony Davis, who hammered Denver with 37 points.

It was so ugly and frustrating the entire fourth quarter stunk like garbage time.

“I’m not going to sit here and blame it on the refs. That’s not what I’m doing,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “We’ve got to play through it and earn their respect.”

In 2020, when life’s not fair, in any way, it’s easy to think the world is conspiring against us. But think that way and it’s nearly impossible to overcome. The refs did the Nuggets no favors in this L. But Murray didn’t whine after the game. He’s a winner.

Lobby the refs all you want. But beg for their mercy? That’s not how it works in this league. Crying foul gets an up-and-coming team nowhere.

Yes, the Lakers attempted two dozen foul shots in the second quarter alone, when Los Angeles took control of the game, with a big assist from a very friendly whistle.

“They went to the foul line 24 times in one quarter. Twenty-four times in a quarter, which is an extremely high number, on pace for 100,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who watched the refs with the same disbelieving eyes as many fans back in Denver.

There is Sistine Chapel artistry to the way James plays basketball, but when he lowers shoulders that are hard as anvils on a drive to a basket, a defender would have an easier time giving a hug to a bull in Pamplona than slowing down the King.

With the Nuggets employing their classic rope-a-dope strategy, L.A. blew them out of the Magic Kingdom with a 17-1 start to the second quarter. Maybe the worst moment in the period, at least in the eyes of Denver fans, was when LeBron made a dent in Murray, hit a shot and was given a free throw, as well.

Malone formally protested, demanding a video review by the refs. I get the idea of standing up for your guys. But you ain’t going to win that battle against the King. He who has the rings gets the calls.

Malone’s objection? Denied. Bron sank the free throw to put the Lakers up 56-41 with six minutes, 25 seconds, remaining in the first half.

If Malone is going to complain about refs showing James too much respect, I’m afraid he is going to be miserable for as long as it lasts. And it won’t last long.

Or as analyst Charles Barkley punked Nuggets Nation on the TNT telecast prior to opening tip: “I don’t even know if they can make it a series … I tell you what, America. Lakers in five!”

Bottom line: The refs didn’t beat the Nuggets.

Here’s what did: The Lakers shot way too often from point-blank range, taking great glee in slamming Denver with don’t-mess-with-us dunks. L.A. scored 54 points in the paint.

“We were giving up layups after scored baskets ourselves,” Malone said. “To me that indicates our sense of urgency to get back was not remotely anywhere close to where it needed to be.”

Belying his sweet Big Honey reputation, there’s a quietly stubborn competitiveness deeply embedded in the DNA of center Nikola Jokic. He won’t back down against the Lakers, as his 11 points during the opening 11 minutes of the first quarter reassured us all.

The problem? L.A. can send big bodies in waves at Joker, from JaVale McGee to Dwight Howard. This series is going to leave a dent.

If Denver is going to have any shot against the Lakers, Murray is going to have to take it. He needs to average at least 25 points per night. He scored 21 in Game 1. But it didn’t matter, because starters Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant and Gary Harris came up painfully small, shooting a meek 7-of-23 from the field.

After only four quarters in this best-of-seven series, the Nuggets are in a tough spot.

And guess what?

The refs aren’t going to bail Denver out.

Not only has Malone kept this team together when hope appeared gone, but he has also cracked the most memorable soundbites heard in the Nuggets camp since the prime of Doug Moe.

On the eve of this series, Malone quipped: “We petitioned the league to see if we could start the series down 3-1, save everybody a lot of time.”

The Nuggets have made us all believe that impossible is nothing. But go down 3-1 to the Lakers and it will be all over except the told-ya-so cackling by Sir Charles Barkley.

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