Dribbles: Davis goes full throttle, and now maybe Lakers can take it easy

Sam Amico

Random dribbles following the Los Angeles Lakers' 116-108 win over the Utah Jazz at the Disney campus on Monday.

1. Two numbers really standout in this game -- 43, and 42.

2. Let's start with 43. The Lakers have led at the end of the third quarter 43 times this season. They've won all of them.

3. Now for 42. That's how many points Anthony Davis erupted for one game after a so-so showing in Saturday's loss to the Toronto Raptors.

4. How so-so was Davis vs. the Raptors? Well, he took seven shots for the entire game. Against the Jazz, Davis attempted twice that many in the first quarter alone.

5. So it wasn't exactly  surprising when Davis told reporters he made a point of being more aggressive vs. Utah than he was in the debacle vs. Toronto.

6. LeBron James can be average (for LeBron) and the Lakers can still win. That is, as long as Davis performs like the superstar he is. When both James and Davis are playing below their capabilities in the same game, it typically will spell doom.

7. Yeah, I know. Not exactly riveting analysis there. But if there's one thing were learning about the Lakers in the bubble, it's that no one else can be counted on consistently. Not yet, anyway.

8. James finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. He went 9-of-16 from the field and 2-of-5 on 3-pointers. It was a better-than-average overall performance. But unlike his days in Cleveland and Miami, LeBron alone isn't going to be enough. 

9. That's why the trade for Davis was so vital. New Orleans may be better off in the long-term with the likes of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. (Ingram has been particularly fantastic this season.) But when you have James on the team, the goal is always to win the championship this season. The Lakers (51-15) are set up to do that.

10. After all, this win clinched the Pacific Division and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference for LA. This after five straight years of missing the playoffs entirely.

11. As Davis said, "It's been a long time coming for Laker Nation."

12. Granted, with all games being played on a neutral court, no one really has an advantage. But no less than James himself said finishing with the best record possible does indeed count for something.

13. LeBron to reporters: "There’s not much of a home-court advantage here. But we worked hard to be the No. 1 team in the West … we got this far, so we might as well try to figure it out and close it off the right way.”

14. Dwight Howard added 11 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 10. Davis also collected a team-high 12 boards. 

15. Davis and James also led the charge defensively. They truly may be the best two-way players in the bubble. "Anthony is the most talented defender in the NBA," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. "He proves it night in and night out."

16. It's hard to know what the Lakers will do from here. On one hand, they could keep playing their stars lots of minutes to keep them sharp and ready for the postseason. 

17. On the other hand, they may want to keep James and Davis fresh for when the games mean the most. At this point, I'm leaning toward the Lakers taking it a little easier (if not a lot) in the final three or four "seeding" games.

18. The Jazz (42-25) received 33 points from Donovan Mitchell and 24 from Mike Conley Jr. So basically, those two lit up the Lakers' backcourt, and never let it be said that the Lakers don't miss Avery Bradley.

19. Dion Waiters finished with seven points and J.R. Smith had four. They combined to shoot 3-of-9. Not much is expected of them, but the Lakers should would like to see both make a little more of their minutes moving forward.