Anthony Davis shows his value at critical moments of Lakers' Game 5 win

By Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

ORLANDO, Fla. - When Anthony Davis jumped into a mob of his teammates to celebrate his "Mamba Moment" earlier in the Western Conference finals, he cemented himself a place in Lakers' history.

But "Mamba Moments" don't have to always be so dramatic, the commitment to winning showing up at all times throughout the course of the game. And while the buzzer didn't need to be beaten Saturday, Denver still did. And big plays from Davis at key moments helped make it happen.

It was Davis who stood down Michael Porter Jr. at the rim, keeping him from a thunderous dunk that would've put momentum fully behind the Nuggets as they tried to make their one last push.

It was Davis with one second left in the third, hitting a jumper from behind the arc to push the Lakers into the fourth quarter with a sense of calm in the midst of Denver's last gasps of bubble ball.

And it was Davis, slowly trailing the play and calmly strolling into a wide-open jumper at the top of the key for another triple. After the shot he held three fingers in the air as the Nuggets had to finally know that this incredible run was ending.

Davis finished with 27 points to go along with five rebounds, three assists, two steals and one mammoth rejection, playing his way to a postseason level he's never experienced before.

"It feels good," Davis said on the court after the game. "... We know the job's not done. We've got four more to go for the ultimate goal."

Players as good as Davis are destined for moments on the biggest stages, and historically, it was a safe bet that it would've eventually happened for him if he didn't push his way to the Lakers this past offseason.

Of the seven players in NBA history with career averages of at least 24 points and 10 rebounds, every one had a Finals appearance - Davis now included. Only Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor and Davis are without championship rings, though that could soon change.


But while a team like Denver had to farm, planting the seeds for this conference finals run with draft picks that blossomed into stars such as Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, the Lakers could simply afford to just go shop.

First it was LeBron James and then it was Davis, the coup de grace to the rest of the West, a pairing guaranteeing the Lakers would almost certainly have the two best players on the court whenever they played.

James made it clear Saturday that he's the best, powering the Lakers as they did in one night what Utah and the Clippers couldn't do in six - eliminate the Nuggets. But there's no way the Lakers would be in this position, with time to rest and heal before the Finals if it wasn't for Davis' production and big-time moments.

As the clock wound down to zero in Game 5, Davis was ready to have another one.

Again, he had the ball in his hands, but this time didn't need to slip open. He didn't need to square up and hit the shot. He didn't need to be the hero. He just had to wait for the horn, the confetti and the celebration.

Davis will be in the NBA Finals with the Lakers, playing on a stage that's built for "Mamba Moments."

He's made the big plays on the journey. And if he really wants a place at the top of Lakers history, he'll now get his chance at the destination.

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