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Anthony Davis, Lakers top Jazz to secure top seed in Western Conference

Tania Ganguli, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

ORLANDO, Fla. -- It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty, but the Los Angeles Lakers clinched the top seed in the Western Conference.

They did it with a 116-108 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night, 4 1/2 months later than they expected to achieve the feat. As the Lakers await their first-round opponent, they will continue the work of preparing themselves for a playoff run unlike any other in history.

"We have to get better every time we're on the floor," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said at shootaround Monday morning. "We're going to be smart with minutes to keep guys fresh and not overworked. I don't anticipate that changing based on anything that happens in the standings."

Anthony Davis finished with 42 points and 12 rebounds, making four of eight three-point attempts. LeBron James scored 22 points and added eight rebounds and nine assists.

With the win, the Lakers improved to 51-15. The Jazz fell to 42-25, still hanging on to the fifth seed in the West.

Utah led for much of the first half and took advantage of the Lakers' shooting struggles. The Lakers trailed the Toronto Raptors 13-0 to start the game Saturday night and lost 107-92. On Monday, they trailed the Jazz 7-0 before scoring.

 

But one thing that changed early was Davis' impact.

Two nights after being neutralized by the Raptors, Davis wasn't going to let that happen again. The Jazz entered Monday night's game aware they needed to contend with the Lakers' size and length, but they couldn't contain Davis.

He took more shots in the first quarter against the Jazz than he did in the entire game against the Raptors. By halftime, Davis had scored 24 points on eight-for-17 shooting while also making seven of 10 free throws.

Davis was also active defensively, and his work helped the Lakers through a challenging stretch. At halftime, the Lakers led 58-56.

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