NBA

Are the Lakers Unstoppable Now?

By Provided By Sports Book Reviews December 02, 2019

The Lakers are on fire, as of November 29 they're 16-2 this season and not many teams will be able to slow them down. Some online sports betting sites even favor them to win the NBA Championship over teams like the Clippers, Bucks, Rockets and Raptors.

What makes the Lakers so tough to beat this season? Read on for the three-part answer. 

LeBron James at Point Guard

Last Thursday's game in New Orleans proves why making LeBron James the starting point guard was the right move by the Lakers. James sparked another Lakers comeback, helping come from behind and beat the Pelicans 114-110. The three-time NBA champion made sure the Lakers would end their four-game road trip with a perfect record and he reached another milestone in the process.

With his 29 points, James became the fourth player in league history to score over 33,000 career points, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant. He also had 11 assists and five rebounds.

LeBron James leads the NBA, averaging 11.0 assists per game and many have been to Anthony Davis. The mood at the Smoothie King Center was tense because of Davis' return but James is no stranger to hostile crowds and he even said that AD received some cheers.

"I mean they still love them [in New Orleans] you heard a lot of cheers as well... you heard some boos obviously, some people boo just because they don't even know why they just want to be a part of the spectacle."

Anthony Davis' Effort at Both Ends of the Floor

AD had his first game at the Smoothie King Center since the blockbuster trade that sent him from New Orleans to Los Angeles and he played inspired basketball, leading the Lakers with 41 points and nine rebounds in 37 minutes, becoming the first player in NBA history to score 40 points in his first game against a former team.

Davis is averaging 26.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists 2.8 blocks and 1.6 steals in 34.9 minutes over 17 games. As I write this, he has a career average of 2.4 blocks in 483 career games but this season he has 48 blocks already,

Anthony Davis (plus-6.7 Box Plus/Minus) leads the Lakers in points, rebounds, blocks, steals and Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and he is clearly a top 5 NBA MVP (plus-2.4 Offensive Box Plus/Minus) and Defensive Player of the Year (plus-4.3 Defensive Box Plus-Minus) candidate.

"We want to make sure that when we come in, we have one goal in mind and that's to come together and win a championship," Anthony Davis told Heavy.com's Brandon 'Scoop B' Robinson in September.

"Do whatever I can to help this team win a championship. That's the main goal. That's our goal and we are going to come in with the mindset that we're all thinking. This is the year." Davis has clear aspirations and if he keeps playing like this the Lakers will go far in the playoffs.

Kyle Kuzma Getting Comfortable as a Sixth Man

Kyle Kuzma missed the entire preseason and the first four games of the season with a stress reaction in his foot but he is finding his way in his new role as a Sixth Man.

The Lakers are playing extremely well but all teams have areas of improvement and Kuzma, who is expected to play a major role in the offense as their third-best player, is still adjusting to coming off the bench, which is understandable.

Kuzma probably did not expect to be a Sixth Man after starting 68 of his 70 games last season and he wants to break through as soon as possible.

"No. I'm not patient at all," Kuzma told Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times after Wednesday's game in New Orleans. "That's why sometimes it's hard."

The 24-year-old had 16 points, five rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes off the bench against the Pelicans and he is a huge piece of the puzzle for the Lakers. His numbers are down but it is a result of him having less playing time.

He averaged 18.7 points over 33.1 minutes last year and this season he is averaging a career-low 12.3 points in 23.0 minutes. Getting used to playing less has to be tough for him but he is playing his part so far, making 46.7 percent of his shots, 36.2 percent of his 3-point attempts and 77.8 percent of his free-throws.

"It's tough sometimes, but you just have to be positive, have an even-keeled mind-set. But that's easier said than done," Kuzma said. "It's something I've got to kind of figure out. But it isn't anything I can't handle."

He knows it's "part of sacrifice and trying to be on a winning team." I see him thriving in this new role, the Lakers need him to keep playing at a high level when he enters the court.

Related items

  • Dudley backs Davis for MVP after new Lakers deal: He's the future and he's the now Dudley backs Davis for MVP after new Lakers deal: He's the future and he's the now

    Jared Dudley is backing Anthony Davis to be NBA MVP in the 2020-21 season after securing a new contract with champions the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Davis followed superstar team-mate LeBron James this week by agreeing to fresh terms in Los Angeles, the seven-time All Star having signed a five-year deal reportedly worth $190million.

    The Lakers won their first championship since 2010 last year in the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort, defeating the Miami Heat 4-2 in the Finals.

    Davis averaged 27.7 points in the postseason, placing him seventh in the overall standings and above James and MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Overall, he became the highest-scoring team-mate of James' career, averaging 26.1 points per game in his first year in LA following his trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.

    The 27-year-old finished sixth in the voting last season and has never placed higher than third, but team-mate Dudley expects him to be primed to chase personal accolades.

    "I'm expecting AD to go for the MVP," the Lakers forward said. "I'm expecting him to set the tone.

    "We know [LeBron James], his years playing this league, the accolades he has, but AD doesn't have some of the accolades. He has the talent, he has the determination. He's the future and he's the now."

    With Davis, James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tied down to new deals and smart recruitment in the form of Dennis Schroder and former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, the Lakers have enjoyed one of the strongest offseasons.

    Markieff Morris summed up the importance of the Lakers' business, saying: "We're led by the best player in the world, and then the second-best player in the world. Or 1A and 1B, however you want to do it."

    Kyle Kuzma, whose own future remains uncertain, admits the success of last season has left him eager for more.

    "It's a very good time for those guys," said Kuzma, the Lakers' top-scoring player off the bench last season with 11.4 per game. "Both very deserving.

    "Obviously, bringing home championship number 17, those guys deserve it. They're helluva players obviously, don't need to keep repeating that. I'm very happy for those guys.

    "I think [winning the championship] just puts more confidence under your belt. At the end of the day, you're a winner and that's something that no one can ever take from you. Especially being a part of it, being a key piece, it kind of just motivates you in a different type of light, you know.

    "Especially going from you know, let's say you don't make the playoffs and your season ends early and you're motivated because you want to get into the playoffs. It's kind of the same thing winning the championship. You want to win more, you want to win and you just want to be successful and that's what it's brought."

    He added on discussions over his own contract: "We've talked. It's obviously just talk between my agent and the organisation, they are working through things. We'll see."

  • Embiid and Simmons can click like LeBron and Davis, says 76ers' Howard Embiid and Simmons can click like LeBron and Davis, says 76ers' Howard

    Philadelphia 76ers recruit Dwight Howard believes Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can click like the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA championship-winning duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

    Howard will play in Philadelphia in 2020-21 after teaming up with superstar pair James and Davis to help the Lakers to NBA glory last season.

    Veteran big man Howard will now try to guide the 76ers to their first championship since 1983, combining with another All-Star duo – Embiid and Simmons.

    Much has been said about franchise pillars Embiid and Simmons, and their compatibility as the 76ers prepare for life under new head coach Doc Rivers, who replaced Brett Brown following a first-round sweep at the hands of Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics in 2019-20.

    Eight-time All-Star Howard has advice for Embiid and Simmons, telling reporters on Thursday: "I've been in that situation multiple times, going to a team that has another star — Charlotte, Atlanta, Houston, L.A., D.C. — playing alongside other stars.

    "Sometimes it can be difficult because you want to be that guy, and watching AD and LeBron, everything they did was together.

    "They worked out together, they ate together, they rode bikes together. We called them the brothers. They were always playing together — playing video games, doing something. … Ben and Joel, they have to be that way.

    "They have to know each other so much on and off the court that when they're playing, it's just natural. 'OK, I know Jo needs a touch right now, let me get him an easy bucket'. 'Ah, Ben is frustrated, let me set a screen for him, get him a couple dunks, couple shots at the rim just to get him going'.

    "Once you're willing to give yourself up, great things tend to happen for you. … I can see that in Ben and Jo. Those two guys together, putting aside any ego, pride or anything, and saying, 'Hey, we're both for one mission, and that's to win a championship, and it starts and finishes with us two'.

    "And I saw that with LeBron and AD. They put everything on their shoulders. They knew they had guys around them but it was, 'OK, LeBron. OK, AD. We've gotta do this, it starts with us. We've gotta be on the same page at all times'. And they did a really good job of it."

    When Embiid and Simmons play, the 76ers boast a 119-65 win-loss record, per Stats Perform. But without one or both, they greatly suffer (67-94), Embiid's physicality in the paint and Simmons' superior defensive skills vital in Philadelphia.

    The 76ers average 111.7 points, 107.5 opposition points, 47.4 rebounds and 26.4 assists per game with Embiid and Simmons involved, a clear improvement compared to when one or both miss a game – 106.7 points, 109.4 opposition points, 44.5 rebounds and 25.0 assists.

    Philadelphia also have a superior field goal percentage (46.9) when Embiid and Simmons both play, with the 76ers shooting just 45.3 per cent without one or both. Opposition numbers also go up in their absence – field goal percentage (44.3 to 46.2) and three-point percentage (34.1 to 35.5).

    "Playing alongside Jo and Ben, I think for me it's just giving them a sense that they can do anything," he said. "For Joel, it's just pushing him every single day to know that he's the best, and every time he steps on the floor he has to be the best player on the floor — whether that be practice, in the weight room, in the training room, during all the games. It's 'I'm the best player on the floor. I'm going to show it through my actions on offense and defense'.

    "For me, it's really just cleaning up their mistakes, pushing them to be the best and just providing them with knowledge through my experiences. I see so much potential in Ben and Jo that I just want to see them succeed.

    "I see so much potential out of those two — what they can bring to a team, the championships that they can have — just all the blessings they can get from playing this great game of basketball. I really just want to be that person to help push them toward their greatness."

  • Anthony Davis: No doubt I was returning to Lakers Anthony Davis: No doubt I was returning to Lakers

    Anthony Davis said there was no doubt he was returning to the Los Angeles Lakers after re-signing with the NBA champions.

    Davis followed superstar team-mate LeBron James in extending his contract in Los Angeles, where the All-Star has reportedly signed a five-year deal worth $190million.

    The seven-time All-Star – who helped the Lakers win the NBA title in his first season since arriving from the New Orleans Pelicans – had opted out of the final year of his previous contract, making him a free agent.

    "I just wanted to take the process one day at a time," Davis told Spectrum SportsNet on Thursday. "Obviously winning the championship with L.A. was very great.

    "The team Rob [Pelinka] put together and Jeanie [Buss] put together, and Linda [Rambis] and all the people in the front office was amazing, and we did something special. Especially with everything going on in 2020.

    "I don't think there was a doubt that I was gonna come back, it was just trying to figure out the logistics and what was best for me and my family, and I was able to get a deal done today.

    "So I'm excited about that and excited for what Dudz calls 'the Big Three', with him myself and 'Bron, so it's gonna be a great time.

    "We've got another great task ahead of us, the team is looking great, guys have been working out, so I'm excited."

    Led by Davis and James, the Lakers claimed their first championship since 2010 after topping the Miami Heat inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort in October amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Davis and James became the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to each have 500-plus points and 200-plus rebounds in the same postseason.

    The first overall pick in 2012 by New Orleans, Davis averaged 26.1 points in the Lakers' title-winning campaign - the most by any team-mate of James' when appearing in at least 70 per cent of games.

    Davis' numbers rose in the playoffs too, the 27-year-old averaging 27.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists as the Lakers lifted the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

    He became the fifth player in league history to shoot 50-40-90 in the NBA Finals (.571 field goal percentage, .421 three-point percentage and .938 free-throw percentage), joining Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups, Penny Hardaway and Magic Johnson.

    "In the Orlando bubble, Anthony Davis proved he is one of the game's most complete and dominant two-way players," Lakers vice-president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka said.

    "Now, Lakers fans get to watch AD continue to grow and lead our franchise for years to come. This is truly a blessed moment for Lakers Nation."

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