Lakers have a new ‘Mr. Clutch’

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Anthony Davis knocked down an enormous shot in Sunday night’s Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

It was a floater with 26.7 left and gave the Lakers a 102-101 lead they would relinquish seconds later when Denver All-Star center Nikola Jokic did what he does in the clutch, throwing up a hook shot to give the Nuggets the lead back.

As you all know by now, Davis drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Lakers a 2-0 series lead.

The Western Conference Finals ended there. I know Denver has rallied from 3-1 deficits against the Utah Jazz and the team I expected to win it all, the L.A. Clippers. That was the most puzzling collapse ever seen in the league, but I digress. Perhaps chalk it up to bubble life and let’s keep it moving, but the Clippers’ collapse is the talk of the town among NBA circles because no one respects the Nuggets and the thought of Kawhi Leonard-led team faltering seems ridiculous.

Jokic and Jamal Murray have proven themselves, but not winning Game 2 because Davis hit a game-winner means they’ll be heading home from the Orlando bubble sooner than later. The bottom line is that Jokic is a liability against teams that can push it because he’s not a rim protector and can’t even get back if you’re making a conscious effort to push the ball down the floor against him.

The Warriors created the blueprint against the Nuggets. Run. Golden State has defeated the Nuggets in four of the team’s last five meetings against them, averaging 125 points per game. You beat Denver down the floor and then execute.

Jokic, a gifted offensive player but limited on the other end of the floor, can’t adjust. Since Denver needs him on the floor to be at its best, limitations are obvious.

Rajon Rondo, who is 34 years old, blew right by Jokic on multiple occasions with the game on the line. He’s been the difference in taking the Lakers from good to great with his decisions off the bench.

L.A. will beat Denver to reach the NBA Finals. Beyond that, can the East champion pull off the upset to take the Lakers out? Davis’ play says no. That’s what his heroics are all about. He needed to see that first ball go in to make that buzzer-beater. He is the best player on the planet when he wants to be, but too often, that is not the case.

Davis needs LeBron James and Rondo prodding him to truly turn it on. Rondo has chemistry with him from their one season in New Orleans together. Most know his story. He’s a guard who grew. He was marginal but then blossomed into a star that could move and was nearly 7-feet tall. Very often, he’s the best player out there, regardless of who is on the floor.

He just needs some confidence and prodding. Confidence was gained by draining the first shot before the game-winner because he hasn’t been in that position before. Check out his body language after he hit the shot that won Game 2. It was amazing, yet expected.

The Los Angeles Lakers will win the 2020 NBA Finals in the bubble. The Eastern Conference Finals will be fun since the Boston Celtics will likely figure out a way to push the Miami Heat to seven games. Whether we somehow get the league’s most historically attractive matchup between the Lakers and Celtics or the East’s No. 5 seed, Miami, sneaks in there to try and win another title, we’ll see a tremendous showdown.

That written, Davis’ series of makes in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals have sealed the deal. The combination of him and James won’t be stopped, barring injury. He’s seen the ball go through the net. He knows he can do it. Even at the highest level, that’s important.

Thursday

Lakers vs. Nuggets: We’re getting back to pick after a one-week hiatus due to scheduling issues. Look for the Lakers to dominate Game 4. They know that being slowed down brings trouble. Jokic was in foul trouble in Game 1 and dominated Game 2. Somehow, L.A. head coach Frank Vogel believes it’s a good idea to start JaVale McGee, presumably because if he gets in early foul trouble, it won’t matter.

Dwight Howard is the best option against Jokic and should see the most minutes. Look for the Lakers to win Game 4 by double-digits. LAKERS

Friday

Celtics vs. Heat: In the East, we’re going to see the Celtics win Game 5 Friday and Miami take Game 6 on Sunday. Boston got a huge boost with Gordon Hayward returning and will play small more often than not the rest of the way.

Look for Boston to claw its way back in the series to stay alive going into the weekend. CELTICS

Sunday

On Sunday, count on the will of Jimmy Butler leading the underdog Heat to the NBA Finals. He runs that show and elevates the level of play of guys like Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo and rookie Tyler Herro.

The Heat will reach a fifth championship round in 10 seasons, which will be a lasting testament to Pat Riley and that culture. Winning matters above all. Always. HEAT

Last week: No selections

Season: 42-29-1

About the Author

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national sportswriter for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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