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If only they’d been at Staples: Five takeaways from Lakers’ Game 2 win

Anthony Davis reacts after making a three-point shot during Game 2 from nearly the same spot he'd later make the game-winner.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis reacts after making a three-point shot during Game 2 from nearly the same spot he’d later make the game-winner.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

There is only one regret LeBron James has about the way Sunday night’s game ended for the Lakers — that Anthony Davis’ game-winning shot didn’t happen at Staples Center.

James remembers what it was like to make one in a packed arena pulling for you. He had that moment in 2009 when his Cavaliers were down 1-0 to the Orlando Magic.

“To be completely honest, man, it was probably one of the greatest moments of my career up until that point,” James said. “I was still a young kid at the time, so big-time.”

James was 24 and the arena in Cleveland erupted around him.

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“The one thing I wish AD had tonight with the shot that he made, I wish we were playing at Staples,” James said. “We miss our fans so much and I can imagine ... it probably would have blew the roof off Staples Center, AD hitting that shot with our crowd. I would have loved to have that moment. I know what it felt like for me when I was able to hit that shot that you mentioned against Orlando, Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, at the buzzer.”

Davis, too, said he wished the game could have been at Staples Center.

The Lakers were barreling toward a loss in Game 2 against the Denver Nuggets before Anthony Davis hit what forever will be known as “The Mamba Shot.”

Instead, the Lakers continue their march in the NBA’s bubble in Orlando, Fla., toward what they hope will be the franchise’s 17th championship.

Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 105-103 win over the Denver Nuggets.

1. The Lakers made the Nuggets pay for their early sloppiness, which helped them cover some of their own mistakes. Both teams committed 14 first-half turnovers. Despite this parity on turnovers, the Lakers had a 10-point lead going into halftime and led by 16 in the first half, perhaps driving home the idea that to beat the Lakers requires mistake-free basketball.

2. Lakers coach Frank Vogel didn’t feel quite so comfortable for much of the game. “Leads mean nothing against this team,” Vogel said. “They are a nightmare to guard. Give them credit for playing an outstanding basketball game. Even in the first half while we had a lead, they are playing well. Like I said, they are extremely difficult to guard, and they are well put together and well-coached on the defensive end. This is a complete basketball team we are playing against. Leads mean nothing. You have to play 48 minutes, and luckily we were able to prevail down the stretch.”

3. Vogel said he would consider starting Dwight Howard in Game 2 but stayed with JaVale McGee at center. McGee played almost 12 minutes, Howard played almost 13, and each scored three points. Late in the game, Vogel stuck with Howard for his defensive presence but took him out for the game’s final two minutes.

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Alex Caruso is playing an integral role with his vocal leadership and basketball IQ in helping the Lakers find success in the NBA playoffs.

4. The Nuggets asked a lot of guard Jamal Murray, who played 44 minutes on Sunday night. Murray scored 25 points and had a game-high plus/minus rating of 16. He also blocked Danny Green on the shot he took right before Davis’ game-winner. Overall, the Nuggets were pleased with their defense. “I thought our defense in that second half was tremendous,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “That’s where it starts with us. Our defense will keep us in games. We’re 8-8 in the postseason. Eight wins, our defense has been great.”

5. The Lakers like to play at a fast pace, and the Nuggets made an effort to disrupt that on Sunday. They had some success at times, and it’s something the Lakers want to keep an eye on. “Every time we have to stop the game for free throws or take the ball out of bounds because they scored, it hurts our offense,” Alex Caruso said. “It’s about, firstly, playing defense and getting out, but even on makes, just playing with pace. And making sure late in games we’re spaced the right way so we can get good shots.”


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