Anthony Davis grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a reverse for his first points of the game Friday night for the Lakers. His next hoop against Oklahoma City was a 10-foot jumper. He then scored on a dunk and his next basket came off an offensive rebound that he converted into another dunk.
Davis was feasting against the smaller Thunder early on, working the box, letting them know it was going to be that way all night.
He scored 15 points in the first quarter, his 6-of-7 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 showed just how aggressive he was going to be to help the Lakers move into eighth place in the competitive Western Conference.
“They didn’t really have rim protection, so I wanted to put a lot of stuff on the rim,” Davis said after he produced 37 points and 15 rebounds. “I knew they were pretty small, so I wanted to get a lot of offensive rebounds and just break the glass. Every game is different. Maybe against bigger guys (Joel) Embiid, (Nikola) Jokic, Steven Adams, it could be a jump shot game. But just reading every game, getting to know the staff and then attacking from every point that gives me an advantage.”
Davis was in his prime when the Lakers needed him to be the best player on the court at Cyrpto.com Arena late in the fourth quarter.
He came in as a 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 picked up one of his four offensive rebounds, fouling out. He made just one of two free throws but gave the Lakers a 114-109 lead with 25.4 seconds left.
Davis had put his stamp on the game, with that “next play mentality” that Lakers coach Darvin Ham wanted to see.
“A (Anthony Davis) represented all of that today. Just demanding the ball, playing downhill, being aggressive with the rim, active defensively, rebounding,” Ham said. “It was huge.”
Walker has a great night
Davis sought out Lonnie Walker IV as soon as victory was secured, offering words of encouragement, showing support and congratulating him on seizing his moment.
Walker, who had started 32 games this season, came off the bench to give the Lakers a big boost with 20 points and four rebounds in nearly 24 minutes of play.
He was shooting 7 of 12 from the field, 4 of 8 from the three-point line.
“We didn’t win this game without him,” Davis said. “Come in, he’s playing well and I don’t know, I’ve never been through that where I’m playing and then getting benched or whatever, but I can only imagine how it affects my mind. To be mentally tough to go from starter to bench, don’t play. He then comes in and plays great minutes, helps the team win. You have to be a strong minded individual for that. So, I just wanted to let him know in the moment how professional he is and that he constantly stays ready.”
A series 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 when he was healthy.
With Russell unavailable on Friday night with a sore right hip, Walker was given a chance to shine.
And he appreciated Davis’ words.
“So, he gave me my flowers for being ready and understanding that it’s not easy,” Walker said. “And that is something that I will take to my heart. I would say these last few weeks I’ve had my ups and downs, I’ve had moments where I haven’t really been myself, where I’ve been down. Therefore, I am very blessed and honored to have a chance and play to the best of my ability.”
Walker had not played in the previous three games for the Lakers. He had played just 11:18 in Houston and just 1:34 in New Orleans before that.
“I’ve really been following the words ‘Divine Timing’ and understanding that the job is not done, that God has my back,” Walker said. “Understanding if that is now or later, everything will come back at the right time. So every day I’ve been in the gym, being positive, understanding what we’re doing, what we’re trying to achieve, and staying ready.”
He was part of the Lakers’ closing lineup in the fourth quarter, playing 8:48.
His 3-pointer from the corner with 3:56 left broke the tie and the lead was never lost.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Lonnie Walker,” Ham said. “I told the team, sometimes, and it’s the reality of our business, you get your minutes shortened or you can’t play at all, and a lot of times it’s not your fault. It’s just circumstantial.
“And he is the definition of what a professional at this level is supposed to do, in terms of staying ready, putting in that extra time in the gym on a one-on-one basis, keeping watching videos with the trainers, keeping resting, keeping getting his proper training. nutrition, keeping that great attitude, that great positive attitude that he has, and it showed tonight. He didn’t have to go out and worry about getting ready. He has kept ready. And if he doesn’t have that performance, we don’t win this game. It’s as simple as that. So I congratulate him for being a professional of the professionals”.