Anthony Davis showing MVP-caliber play as Lakers go on winning tear




Anthony Davis caught the basketball in a variety of spots on the court.

At the 3-point line. In the low post. In the mid-range.

And Davis burned the Wizards for 55 points on 23-for-30 shooting, 17 rebounds and three blocks in the Los Angeles Lakers' 130-119 victory Sunday, following up his 44 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the Lakers' 133-129 victory against Milwaukee on Friday.

Davis has been dominant.

In his past 10 games, he is averaging 34.2 points, 15.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.9 blocks and 1.3 steals and shooting 63.3% from the field and 41.7% on 3-pointers. Those are MVP-type statistics.

"My body feels great, getting in the gym working on my game, coming together collectively as a unit - everything is going well for us now," Davis said Sunday. "Guys are shooting the ball well. Guys are communicating on defense.

"But for me, just being locked in and staying with mindset of being aggressive and not taking a game off and coming out with a mindset of dominating and doing whatever I've got to do to help the team win, whether it's scoring, rebounding, blocking shots. Whatever it is, just trying to do my part."

Pair Davis with LeBron James' 26.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists and the Lakers have won eight of their past 10 and are showing signs of becoming an interesting and competitive team in the Western Conference. That stretch includes victories at Milwaukee - first-year Lakers coach Darvin Ham called it a signature win - and against Portland and Brooklyn but also includes three against San Antonio. Their six-game trip continues against Cleveland on Tuesday.

The Lakers are 10-12 after starting 2-10. It's still just good for 13th place in the West but also is just two games behind Portland and Utah for seventh and eighth place.

Anthony Davis shoots as Wizards center Kristaps Porzingis defends during the second half at Capital One Arena on Sunday.
Anthony Davis shoots as Wizards center Kristaps Porzingis defends during the second half at Capital One Arena on Sunday.  

Have the Lakers turned their season around and will they be a relevant participant in the championship chase? It's too early to tell, a 10-game sample size too small and let's see where the Lakers are following this trip that concludes with the Cavs, Toronto, Philadelphia and Detroit.

But the Lakers have worked through some issues, including Russell Westbrook's move from starter to the bench.

"Our willingness to look at our mistakes in the film room, go through them on the court and acknowledge them and try to sustain the things we're doing well and change the things we weren't doing so well," Ham explained. "The bad possessions are dwindling and the good possessions are increasing and more consistent. The work is not done."

There is a decided difference between Los Angeles' first 12 games and their past 10 games. They are much better offensively, have rebounded better and committed fewer turnovers and contributions from Lonnie Walker IV, Austin Reaves and Westbrook have led to victories.

"Their buy-in is accelerating at a pace a where they're embracing everything we're throwing at them, the way we want to play offensively and defensively," Ham said. "You're going to go through that period of discovery. Those first 20, 25 games, you're learning your team, your team is learning you, coming in as a new staff, a new head coach while also managing who's available, who's not available, guys out for various illnesses and various injuries and you're trying to mix and match the lineup. And now, we're here, we're becoming more whole by the day."

The move to make Westbrook a reserve has given the bench a lift and allowed Davis and James to play their productive brand of two-man basketball without a third player disrupting what they do so well.

"He and I developed a rapport, a trust," Ham said of Westbrook. "I don't look (at) it as a demotion - just realigning our lineup and our rotation in terms of finding different ways to get 'Bron and AD the ball and be on the floor. Let those two do their two-man thing. Then 'I'll bring you off the bench with your crew. You'll be able to orchestrate and dictate, knowing all the time what we want to get.' "

There is still belief around the league that the Lakers will make a deal and try to maximize Davis' MVP-caliber performance and James' All-NBA-level play before the February trade deadline to improve their roster. With Westbrook adapting to his new role, he may not be part of a trade.

Regardless, Davis, the Western Conference player of the week, is integral to the Lakers' success. Fans in D.C. chanted "MVP, MVP," and while the Lakers can't expect to get 99 points every two games from Davis, they need him to play like an MVP, and he will be a candidate if he continues to play like this.

"Whenever he's healthy and feeling great about his body, you see those types of performances," Ham said. "It's been fun to watch, fun to be a part of, great for our ballclub and the guys really being inspired by his performances and wanting to see him thrive and excel at that level. He deserves it."

James just passed Lakers great Magic Johnson for No. 6 on the all-time assist list and is moving closer to passing another Lakers great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as the NBA's all-time leading scorer.

He has never wavered about Davis' importance to the Lakers.

"It's our job to get him the ball at all times," James said. "Me, as a leader of the team, it's part of my job to reassure AD how great he is - how great he is in this league not just for this team."

Follow NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Anthony Davis' MVP-caliber play has Lakers showing signs of life

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