Anthony Davis knows the pressure, the need to turn things around for a franchise after they invest a top pick in you.
He also knows that the Spurs had lost 17-straight games heading into Wednesday, rookie Victor Wembanyama’s presence resulting in occasional highlights surrounded by typical rookie struggles.
He’s been there before. Wednesday, he made sure this year’s top pick wouldn’t escape.
Davis continued a run of dominant basketball, leading the Lakers to a 122-119 win on the second night of a back-to-back with LeBron James out, nursing his sore calf.
Wembanyama fought – he hit back-to-back threes late in the fourth and had a chance to tie the score at the line, but he split on a pair to allow the Lakers to hold a slim lead and missed a potential tying shot.
Davis finished with 37 points, 10 rebounds and four steals. Wembanyama scored 30 to go with 13 rebounds and six blocks.
“Finding my shot. Of course, being more aggressive,” Davis said. “But when my teammates are doing a good job, I think it’s easier for me to operate when guys are making their shots.”
Early on, Davis attacked Wembanyama early and stretched the Spurs defense out to the perimeter, where he made multiple threes for the first time since last March.
Davis set the tone in the first half with 24 points, including a powerful one-handed dunk over the French rookie.
The Lakers, as they do from time to time, didn’t get Davis as involved in the second half, the Spurs making him their focal point and allowing everyone else to get going.
But with the Spurs failing to quit, the Lakers needed Davis in the fourth, their lone healthy star drawing a pair of key fouls on Wembanyama and hitting a mid-range jumper to that appeared to end the comeback.
It did not.
The Lakers, despite leading by 10 with two minutes to go, needed Davis to hit a pair of free throws to go up by three with 17.3 seconds left – the Spurs getting one last chance. Wembanyama had a clean look, but he missed wide, the second longest losing streak in the NBA extending to 18. Davis, fittingly, grabbed the rebound – finishing with 11 fourth-quarter points to hold San Antonio off. Davis even intercepted one final Hail Mary pass.
“Obviously he’s extremely talented. A three-level scorer, as we’ve seen tonight. Fun playing against him, obviously,” Davis said. “He’s being talked about a lot, from his time overseas into summer league and then obviously now. Obviously the team is struggling, but he’s playing extremely well. He’s able to keep them in games.”
The Lakers survived despite allowing 45 fourth-quarter points, minutes played largely with their best perimeter defenders Cam Reddish and Jarred Vanderbilt on the bench.
“Can’t foul. Can’t give up threes. We got to take care of the ball,” Davis said. “And execute on the offensive end. It’s simple. Nothing that they did. We had some turnovers, some miscommunication offensively – some defensively. That’s really it.”
The two teams meet again Friday in San Antonio.