Beyond Offense: Anthony Davis’s Defensive Mastery Key in Lakers Triumph over Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant, center, shoots between Los Angeles Lakers forward Cam Reddish, left, and forward Anthony Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball In-Season Tournament game in Portland, Ore., Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)


Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant tries to score against the double-team defense of Lakers forwards Anthony Davis, right, and Cam Reddish during the second half Friday night in Portland. (Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)

Every now and then, Anthony Davis would limp up and down the court, making it obvious that the left hip spasm was still an issue for the Lakers big man.

Yet Davis still played 34 minutes and 47 seconds for the Lakers during their in-season tournament game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center, and he still was a force.

His double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds was instrumental in the win.

Davis had ice packs all over his body as he sat in his chair inside the Lakers’ locker room Friday night.

When he was asked how he was feeling physically, Davis just smiled.

Lakers Shut Down Sharpe, Pummel Blazers - Blazer's Edge

“I’m all right. I’m all right,” he repeated. “I mean, you know, go out there and compete. Unfortunately this thing, it’s still bothering me but I’m going to try to go out there and compete. Obviously, not being who I am offensively, my shot’s not falling and the leaping abilities and all that stuff just isn’t back to where it was but I try to just make up for it on the defensive end and try to impact the game other than scoring. But at the end of the day, we win basketball games and I’ll figure the rest out.”

Here are four takeaways from the Lakers’ win over Portland:

1. If there is one thing Davis has done in a forceful manner despite his injury is play defense.

He had five blocked shots. He had five fouls and six turnovers, which bothered Davis.

But he was the anchor on defense for the Lakers all game. Then Davis explained his role on defense.

“Everything,” he said. “I’m the D-line. The linebacker. Safety. Cornerback. Everything. I’m everywhere. I just try to be there for the team. I tell the guys to pressure the ball and funnel them to me and I’m going to help you guys. And if I try to go block a shot, alter a shot, then you guys just crack back on whoever the big is — tonight it was (lakerDeandre) Ayton — and get him off the glass and get rebounds. I just try to be the anchor for the guys, knowing that they got protection on the backline and give them enough confidence to go out and pressure the ball…”

2. Early on Friday morning, Lakers coach Darvin Ham said he had a “good one-on-one” talk with Christian Wood to offer some encouragement.

Ham wanted to let Wood know that the backup center is important to what the Lakers do offensively.

Ham said Wood was not worried about that, that he just wanted to play his role.

Wood was solid in that reserve role, producing a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He was five-for-nine shooting from the field.

“I was acknowledging, I was like, ‘Man, I’m just trying to figure out how I can help you,’” Ham said. “He’s like, ‘Nah, don’t worry about it.’ He said, ‘I’m gonna keep rebounding. I gotta keep doing the little stuff, the dirty work — setting screens, running, playing my part. I’m not worried about touches or anything like that right now.’ He’s had his biggest impact on the defensive glass with his rebounding. So, it was a great conversation, and I think he’s doing a great job trying to figure out his niche within our roster.”

3. The Lakers put this game away with their three-point shooting, the same three-point shooting that had been so awful for so much of this season.

But they were on target for much of the game, shooting 40% (12 for 30) from three-point range against the Trail Blazers.

And, of course, LeBron James in the middle of it all.

He was five-for-nine shooting from three-point range, his season high in makes and a big part of his 35 points that tied his season high in scoring.

When the Trail Blazers made a move on the Lakers in the fourth quarter, it was the Lakers’ three-point shoot that put an end to things.

They made three of six three-pointers in the fourth.

James made the first three that pushed the Lakers’ lead to 12 points. He found Taurean Prince in the corner for a three and Rui Hachimura in the opposite corner that gave the Lakers a 14-point lead later in the fourth.

“Obviously, we haven’t shot the ball very effectively to start the season so a lot of teams are trying to pack the paint,” James said. “So, we put the work in and when guys are knocking it down, it just makes our offense even that much more dynamic.”

4. The Lakers do have a problem they need to clean up — offensive rebounds.

They allowed the Trail Blazers to collect 19 offensive rebounds that they turned into 22 second-chance points.

“Obviously, that’s an area we need to continuously work on, get better at,” Ham said. “Improve at and just really … we played really great defense. It’s kind of deflating to see a team get second and third opportunities.”

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