Anthony Davis grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a putback for his first points of the game Friday night for the Lakers. His next hoop against Oklahoma City was a 10-foot jumper. Then he scored on a dunk and his next basket came after an offensive rebound that he turned into another dunk.
Davis was feasting against the smaller Thunder early, putting in work in the box, letting them know this was how it was going to be all night long.
He had 15 points in the first quarter, his six-for-seven shooting a sign of how determined Davis was to help the Lakers reach .500 for the first time this season with a 116-111 victory. He had five rebounds in the first quarter, the two offensive boards showing how aggressive he was going to be in helping the Lakers move into eighth place in the competitive Western Conference.
“They didn’t really have no rim protection so I wanted to get a lot of stuff at the rim,” Davis said after producing 37 points and 15 rebounds. “I knew they were pretty small so I wanted to get a lot of offensive rebounds and just crash the glass. Every game is different. Maybe against bigger guys — [Joel] Embiid, [Nikola] Jokic, Steven Adams — it might be a jump-shot game. But just reading each game, knowing the personnel and then attacking from each point that gives me an advantage.”
Davis was at his best when the Lakers needed him to be the best player on the Cyrpto.com Arena court late in the fourth quarter.
He came over as the help defender and stripped the ball away from a driving Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the Lakers leading by five points late in the game.
Then Davis collected one of his four offensive rebounds, drawing a foul. He made just one of two free throws, but it gave the Lakers a 114-109 cushion with 25.4 seconds left.
Davis had put his stamp on the game, having that “next-play mentality” Lakers coach Darvin Ham wanted to see.
“A [Anthony Davis] represented all of that today. Just demanding the ball, playing downhill, being aggressive to the rim, being active defensively, rebounding,” Ham said. “He was huge.”
Walker has big night
Davis sought out Lonnie Walker IV as soon as the win was secured, offering him words of encouragement, showing him support and congratulating him for taking advantage of his moment.
Walker, who had started 32 games this season, came off the bench to give the Lakers a big lift with 20 points and four rebounds in nearly 24 minutes of play.
He was seven-for-12 shooting from the field, four for eight from three-point range.
“We don’t win this game without him,” Davis said. “He comes in, is playing well and I don’t know, I’ve never been through it where I’m playing and then get benched or whatever, but I can only just imagine how it messes with the mind. To be mentally strong to go from a starter to move to the bench, don’t play. Then come in and play big minutes, help the team win. You got to be a strong-minded individual for that. So, I just wanted to let him know in the moment how professional he is and constantly staying ready.”
A slew of injuries caused Walker to lose his starting job. The Lakers also acquired D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimara before the trade deadline, leaving Walker out of the rotation at times when healthy.
With Russell unavailable Friday night because of right hip soreness, Walker got his opportunity to shine.
And he appreciated the words from Davis.
“So, he gave me my flowers for being ready and understanding it’s not easy,” Walker said. “And that’s something that I’ma take to the heart. I would say these last few weeks I’ve had my ups and downs, I’ve had my times where I haven’t really been myself, where I’ve been down. So, I’m very blessed and honored to have an opportunity, and play to the best of my capability.”
Walker had not played in the previous three games for the Lakers. He had played just 11:18 at Houston and just 1:34 at New Orleans before that.
“I’ve really been going with the words ‘Divine Timing’ and understanding that the work’s not done, that God has my back,” Walker said. “Understanding whether that’s now or later, it’s all gonna come back in the right time. So, every day I’ve been in the gym, just being positive, understanding what we’re doing, what we’re trying to accomplish, and staying ready.”
He was a part of the Lakers’ closing lineup in the fourth quarter, playing 8:48.
His three-pointer from the corner with 3:56 left broke a tie and the lead was never lost.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Lonnie Walker,” Ham said. “I said to the team, sometimes, and it’s the reality of our business, you get your minutes cut short, or you don’t get to play at all, and a lot of times it’s through no fault of your own. It’s just circumstantial.
“And he’s the definition of what a pro is supposed to do at this level, in terms of keeping himself ready, putting that extra time in in the gym individually, still watching film with the coaches, still getting his rest, still getting his proper nutrition, keeping that great attitude — that great positive attitude that he has — and it showed tonight. He didn’t have to come out and worry about getting ready. He’s been staying ready. And if he doesn’t have that performance, we don’t win this game. It’s as simple as that. So kudos to him for being a pro’s pro.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.