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.