Davis master class as Lakers sink Jazz to clinch top spot

Anthony Davis (3) up against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert while leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 116-108 victory in their NBA game on Monday. (AP)
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Updated 05 August 2020

Davis master class as Lakers sink Jazz to clinch top spot

  • It was the 20th time Davis has scored 20 points or more in the first half as a Laker, the first player from the franchise to achieve that feat since Kobe Bryant

ORLANDO, Florida: Anthony Davis scored 42 points as the Los Angeles Lakers clinched top seeding in the Western Conference on Monday with a 116-108 victory over the Utah Jazz.

Stung by the defeat to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, the Lakers roared back in impressive fashion to overpower a talented Utah lineup.

The win sealed top spot in the West for the Lakers for the first time since 2010, when the late Kobe Bryant would go on to lead the team to the NBA Finals crown.

On Monday, Davis stamped his class on the contest with a hefty points tally as well as coming up with 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals.

LeBron James finished with 22 points and nine assists as the Lakers finally pulled away from a stubborn Utah side.

“All the stuff we’ve been through this season, to clinch No.1 in the West means a lot but we’re not finished,” Davis said.

“It’s just one of the milestones of many to get to where we want to be.”

Davis’s points haul included 23 in the first half alone.

It was the 20th time Davis has scored 20 points or more in the first half as a Laker, the first player from the franchise to achieve that feat since Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January.

“To be in a category with him means a lot,” Davis said. “I know he’s looking down on us, cheering us on.”

Elsewhere on Monday, Fred VanVleet scored a career-high 36 points as the Toronto Raptors dug deep to defeat the Miami Heat 107-103 in their Eastern Conference clash.

VanVleet led the scoring for the Raptors with a haul that included seven three-pointers from 12 attempts as Toronto improved to 48-18 to remain in second place in the East.

VanVleet also made a big contribution defensively for the Raptors, forcing a deflection of a Jimmy Butler pass later on that denied Miami an opportunity for a game-tying score. VanVleet finished with four turnovers.

It was an all-round display that left Raptors coach Nick Nurse purring with pleasure after the victory.

“What makes his defense unique is that he doesn’t look very fast out there, but his lateral side-to-side speed and the way he can move his feet is incredible, it’s deceiving,” Nurse said of VanVleet.

Also on Monday, Nikola Jokic had a triple-double as the Denver Nuggets overpowered the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 121-113 overtime victory.

Jokic finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a stellar performance for Denver, who improved to 44-23 with the win.

The Nuggets remain third in the Western Conference standings behind the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.


Murray to the rescue as Nuggets hold of Lakers

Updated 23 September 2020

Murray to the rescue as Nuggets hold of Lakers

  • The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99

ORLANDO: Jamal Murray scored 28 points as the Denver Nuggets held off a ferocious late fightback from the Los Angeles Lakers to roar back into contention in the Western Conference finals series on Tuesday.

Murray nailed two crucial late three-pointers in the closing minutes as Denver held on for a 114-106 victory in game three to reduce the Lakers’ lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

But the Nuggets — who looked in complete control for long periods of the contest — were given a mighty scare by the Lakers in a thrilling fourth quarter battle.

The Lakers had trailed by 20 points with just over 10 minutes remaining but whittled away the Denver lead to just three points with 3min 53sec left on the clock in Orlando.

But just as it looked as if LeBron James and Anthony Davis were poised to complete a remarkable comeback, Murray regrouped to take the game away from the Lakers.

The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99 and he then provided the assist for Paul Millsap to make it 108-99.

With less than a minute on the clock, Murray struck the dagger blow with a 29-foot three-point jumpshot to make it 111-99 and effectively seal victory.

Denver coach Michael Malone said his team — who had suffered an agonizing buzzer-beater defeat in game two on Sunday — were determined not to go 3-0 down in the series.

The Nuggets have already overturned 3-1 series deficits en route to the Western Conference finals.

“I had no doubt we were going to show up tonight,” Malone said.

“We have won six straight elimination games. Everybody always has us packing our bags and leaving, but we’re not ready to go. They’re a very resilient group and they have proved that time and time again.”

Asked about his late flourish, Murray said he had set out to lead by example.

“That’s my whole energy, my whole approach to the game, not getting down if I miss a couple of shots,” Murray said.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive ... but the most important part is the energy I bring when I’m talking to my team-mates, being a vocal leader, getting up and down and pushing everybody so they tend to follow. I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.”

The Lakers, meanwhile, were left reflecting on an uneven display which ultimately left James and Davis with too much to do.

James led the scoring with a triple double comprised of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, with six turnovers. Davis had 27 points, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12) and Kyle Kuzma (11) the only other Lakers players to crack double figures.

Murray, who also had 12 assists, was backed with 26 points from Jerami Grant while Nikola Jokic weighed in with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

“You put yourself in an 18-point hole, it’s tough to climb out of that,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

“I thought Denver played with great energy throughout the game. We didn’t match it early, we matched it late. They’re a great basketball team so credit it to them for the win. They played a really good basketball game.

“We were not as sharp as we could have been on both ends of the floor. We were playing at a high level, but were a little bit off in the first half.

“But I liked the spirit that the guys competed with down the stretch to try and make it a game.”