Healthy and happy: LeBron James, Anthony Davis lead Lakers back to conference finals

Healthy and happy: LeBron James, Anthony Davis lead Lakers back to conference finals

One thing is evident after LeBron James’ four seasons with Anthony Davis in the Los Angeles Lakers’ soap drama.

When healthy, James and Davis are championship-caliber.

The Lakers’ return to prominence has been hampered by injuries to one or both superstars for much of the three seasons since their 2020 bubble title. Since that ring, James and Davis are still fighting.

Now that they’re healthy again, the NBA has seen what happens when this explosive combo can fly.

James and Davis excelled as the Lakers eliminated the defending champion Golden State Warriors in six games with a 122-101 win Friday night.

James credited the front office for adding D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, and Jarred Vanderbilt at the trade deadline for the seventh-seeded Lakers’ four-game lead in the NBA Finals three months after they were six games below.500 and in 13th place in the Western Conference.

James quickly added, “Also, staying healthy.” After the break, we played well despite being sick.

LeBron and AD lost only in 2021 when Davis was injured in the first round against Phoenix. This postseason has shown why the Lakers are 95-49 when James and Davis play together.

After a 33-49 season, Frank Vogel was fired and Darvin Ham was hired. Davis played 40 games and James 56 due to injuries.

These Lakers are different: Only Austin Reaves and backup big man Wenyen Gabriel remain from last year.

“When you have guys like Bron and AD who have won championships, you always feel like you have a chance, especially with the roster that we have, the talent that we have,” said Reaves, the undrafted free agent who started down the stretch.

In Game 6, James recorded 30 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists, making remarkable plays to disprove the idea that the NBA’s all-time leading scorer had lost anything at 38.

Davis’ 17 points, 20 rebounds, and athletic defense change every opponent’s game strategy.

Both stars are in great shape for Tuesday’s conference finals against the Denver Nuggets. After missing Game 5 against Golden State due to a head injury, Davis played well at home Friday night and will be ready to face Nikola Jokic.

The Lakers just secured a play-in position with 2 1/2 weeks left in the regular season. Since the trade deadline, Los Angeles is 27-12 with no back-to-back losses since March 17.

Even though he molds the Lakers around his superstars, Ham always credits them for their success.

“One of the things I wanted to reestablish here was our competitiveness,” Ham added. “It started with themselves, how can we all be better individually, and then come together as a group, and I think just throughout the season, the work ethic of LeBron, the persistence of AD, both of those guys.”

In two months, the Lakers’ season has gone from likely failure to indisputable success, yet nobody seems satisfied. After handling every challenge in recent weeks, the Lakers are heading into their matchup with top-seeded Denver with more confidence than almost any seventh seed could have—no surprise since no seventh seed has reached the West finals since the 1986-87 Seattle SuperSonics.

“From Day One, we’ve always said we need those three elements to be able to do anything, to have any type of success within an NBA season, and that’s competitiveness, togetherness, and accountability,” Ham said. “Our work and preparation will take us as far as that takes us, and we stayed true to that.

“Everyone in the building stayed positive, stayed encouraging.”

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