It is no secret that the LeBron James and Anthony Davis tandem domianted the league throughout the season. They powered through several defensive schemes and player matchups during the season, and especially in the Playoffs. In the Finals versus the Miami Heat though, Davis showed that he was virtually unstoppable on both sides of the court. The statistics show why James was the Finals MVP, but there is an argument in giving his running mate votes during the deliberations, given his play in shaping the crucial stretches of the championship round.
James and Davis combined for 54.8 points, 22.5 rebounds, and 11.0 assists a game throughout the six games of the Finals. It can be said that James was the more consistent superstar and that was highlighted best with his legendary Game 5 performance. Davis however, was the most important player for the Lakers in the series as his versatility and talent overmatched the Heat on both offense and defense. AD had his off-night in Game 3 and was hobbled in Game 5, but his play in Games 4 and 6 ultimately was crucial in swinging the momentum and the title to their side.
Davis is a cheat code in the Lakers lineups throughout the Playoffs. His physical frame and intangibles gave Frank Vogel the flexibility to go big or small depending on the matchup. Against the Heat, the Brow’s talents were on full display as the Lakers played small this series with Dwight Howard getting limited minutes, Markief Morris playing the backup center, and Davis sliding to the five spot. The lineup of James, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Davis was by far their best set this Finals with a Net Rating of plus-35.3. This was their common closing lineup leaving Davis to man the paint for the Lakers.
The All-NBA first team candidate utilized his 7’6″ wingspan together with his quickness to guard all five positions in the court. He showed his four-time Defensive First Team ability in taking it upon himself to slow down Jimmy Butler in Game 4. Butler opened the game with 13 points on 70% shooting of Game 4. After that, AD took it upon himself to guard the Heat’s main scorer to hold him to 30% shooting and only nine points after. If that was not beautiful enough, he capped off this stellar performance by hitting a jab-step three to put the Lakers up nine with 40 seconds left. Remember, this is a big man doing both these things.
In Game 6, Davis took care of the defensive side for the Lakers, holding the Heat to just 34% shooting allowing his team to run out to a 28-point lead at the half. Davis had a defensive rating of 93 in Game 6 which is the best number of any player for the entire Finals. The Lakers threw the Heat multiple looks on defense with Davis heavily guarding the paint in the Lakers zone this game. Given that AD was banged up with only a day off before this game, that made his defensive performance in the closeout game even more impressive.
Davis having point-guard like skills in a 7-foot frame gave him an advantage on both offense and defense this Finals series. Bam Adebayo was a key component to the Heat stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum previously, but Davis showed why he is “built different” in this series. This was the key matchup to watch for entering this series and it did not disappoint. Adebayo missed two games yes, but that did not stop Davis from anchoring the Lakers’ defense limit the Heat’s fourth-best offense in the Bubble to under 100 points thrice this series. Those big defensive performances, anchored by Davis turned the tide to LA’s favor.
Unlike their past opponents, the threat of James and Davis mitigated the effectiveness of the Heat’s zone defense. Whether it was Rondo and James making plays, Davis had the talent to create his shot off their passes or use his physicality to get extra rebounds against an undersized Heat team. The Lakers coaching staff knew that the Heat ran their zone with their wings at the top which allowed Davis and the other Laker bigs to crash the offensive board. This ultimately led to 70 offensive rebounds for the Lakers versus the Heat’s 39 for the series, with Davis gobbling up majority of those second-chance opportunities.
Laker fans are certainly be happy that the title is back in Los Angeles after 10 long years. The players sure don’t mind who was named the Finals MVP as long as they went home with the Larry O’Brien trophy. Davis’ talents though needs to be highlighted, especially because his dominance on defense was game-changing for the Lakers. He is just scratching the surface of his potential as a 27-year-old, but his play this year showed his ability to lead a championship team on both ends of the floor.
The scary part is that the James and Davis duo is not going away right soon. This could just be the start of something special if things go well for these two. After Father Time finally catches up to the King, the Brow has shown that he is ready to carry the torch for the loyal fans of the Purple & Gold.