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Anthony Davis’ performance against Grizzlies places him among Lakers greats

Lakers star Anthony Davis grabs one of his 20 rebounds against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Lakers star Anthony Davis (3) grabs one of his 20 rebounds against the Memphis Grizzlies during the Lakers’ 120-91 victory Tuesday at Staples Center.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

George Mikan. Elgin Baylor. Wilt Chamberlain. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Shaquille O’Neal.

Now, Anthony Davis.

Lakers history is filled with big men who dazzled their fans and terrified opponents, and on Tuesday night Davis joined their exclusive club. They are the only Lakers to have scored at least 40 points in a game in which they also grabbed 20 rebounds.

Davis scored 40 points with 20 rebounds Tuesday night with two blocks, while playing only three quarters as the Lakers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 120-91. The Lakers improved to 3-1 for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

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“It’s an honor,” said Davis, following his fourth game as a Laker. “Great company. To be here part of this franchise and do something special like that and be on that list with those legends, means a lot to me. But what’s more important, I’m happy that we got the win.”

Davis made seven of his 17 field-goal attempts and 26 of the 27 free throws he attempted, setting a franchise record for made free throws in a game. LeBron James added 23 points with eight assists and two rebounds.

LeBron James and his family drove around for hours looking for a place to stay after evacuating their home near the Getty fire. Now, they seek normalcy.

Dwight Howard had held the Lakers’ record for most made free throws in a game, and he was Davis’ most visible cheerleader in the closing minutes of the third quarter.

The Grizzlies knocked Davis over, fell on him, grabbed his arms and did whatever they could to try to slow his monstrous day. None of it worked.

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Davis scored 20 points in the third quarter — 18 of them on free throws.

The crowd roared louder each time a whistle blew and Davis went to the line. Howard egged them on when they did, amplifying the cacophony.

By the end of the third, Davis had so dominated the Grizzlies that there was no need to keep him in the game. On his back, the Lakers had outscored the Grizzlies 39-20 in the third.

Davis did all this through pain in his right shoulder, having sustained a minor injury Sunday when he missed on a dunk against the Charlotte Hornets.

“Tried to be Superman,” Davis said.

Sunday night, Davis denied anything was wrong with his shoulder, despite a report to the contrary.

But during a pregame news conference Tuesday, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said there was a chance Davis would miss the game. Vogel prepared as if he would.

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Davis was cleared to play, but the specter of a potential shoulder injury loomed throughout the game. After the first quarter in which he scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Davis retreated to the locker room to have his shoulder retaped, before finishing the half.

“I was really just trying to figure it all out,” Davis said. “It was bothering me a lot, it was very sore. But I didn’t want to come out of the game. I just came to the back to adjust some things.”

He played 18 minutes 34 seconds, scoring 20 points, with 12 rebounds, an assist and a block by halftime. Trainers worked on his shoulder again at halftime.

During one moment in the third quarter, Davis fell on his right shoulder after being fouled. When Howard helped him up, Davis offered only his left arm, presumably to avoid aggravating his right shoulder.

The Grizzlies opened the game with a 15-2 run for a 13-point lead that was their largest of the game. At halftime Memphis trailed 49-47.

The third quarter changed the story of the game and gave Davis a milestone with his new team.

“He gutted it out, playing in some pain,” Vogel said. “And he was dominant.”

Maybe Anthony Davis shouldn’t have played against the Memphis Grizzlies in order to be sure the soreness didn’t become something that might keep him out awhile.

Injury update

Kyle Kuzma will travel with the Lakers on their upcoming trip, Vogel said.

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Kuzma has been out since he was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his left ankle this August. During the last week, he has steadily increased his daily activity in hopes of returning to the court during the trip. He will practice Wednesday with the G League team. The Lakers will play games in Dallas on Friday, San Antonio on Sunday and Chicago on Tuesday.

Kuzma said he has noticed ways in which he can help while sitting out.

“Just being a scorer,” Kuzma said. “That’s what I do. A lot of things people don’t think I can do I worked on this summer. People are kind of gonna see me being that guy, not just a scorer off the ball but being able to handle the ball and get to my spots, raising up, shooting. Just being that creator. Not just a scoring creator, but creating to my teammates and my overall game.”


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