WASHINGTON, D.C. — The ball went to the rim late in the fourth quarter on Sunday — Anthony Davis made his 20th field goal, his 49th and 50th points of the night — and the crowd at Capital One had visitors The Los Angeles Lakers big man heard their appreciation.
“MVP! MVP! MVP!”
Davis didn’t just hear the praises of fans when he scored 55 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks in Los Angeles’ 130-119 win over the Washington Wizards.
“Jayson Tatum is playing his ass, but when you’re talking about the MVP race or guys in the category, that might change after tonight,” Lakers starting guard Patrick Beverley said. “[Davis] It should be there, of course. “
LeBron James echoed that sentiment with 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
“He’s unbelievable, man,” James said. “On both sides of the court. I mean, playing like the MVP of this league. Just straight up domination.”
Davis’ performance against the Wizards was one of the best performances of the 11-year veteran’s career. It was his second-highest scoring total and the most with the Lakers since he joined Shaquille O’Neal as the only players with more than 40 points and 10 rebounds in back-to-back games for the Purple and gold.
Thirty years ago, no player in the NBA recorded 50 or more points on at least 70 percent of his field goals, 15 or more rebounds and three or more blocks, Davis (73 percent from the field) mirrors Patrick Ewing 50 points on Dec. 1, 1990 on 71 percent shooting, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Astounding as his individual stats may be, Davis said his sole focus remains on team achievement.
“Win a championship,” Davis said when asked if his goals for the season included winning his first Larry O’Brien trophy. “That’s it. If your mindset is to win a championship, the rest will follow. That’s always been my thinking. I put the team first, not any individual awards or accolades that come with it. So if We keep doing what we did to win the basketball game and the rest will happen naturally.”
Sunday was the Lakers’ third straight win and their eighth in the last 10 games, improving to 10-12 — just two games behind the defending champion Golden State Warriors, who are currently in the West. ranked sixth.
The Lakers win capped a stellar cap for Davis, who had a career-high third-place finish in MVP voting during the 2017-18 season with the New Orleans Pelicans.
In his past nine games, Davis is averaging 35.3 points on 64.8 percent shooting from the field, 45.5 percent from three-point range and 88 percent from the free-throw line, along with 15.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. Lakers head coach Darwin Ham said that changed when Davis was able to fully recover from the low back pain that plagued him in training camp, and his performance and confidence have only improved since then.
“The number one priority is his health,” Ham said. “I think he feels good, his body feels good. He had some back issues early on but he’s worked it out and you can see it in his face and in his game. It. He’s having fun playing basketball without pain. The players know that. They know I put him at the top of who we need to beat.”
James said part of his responsibility is to stay in Davis’ ear and let him know what he means to the Lakers franchise.
“I think we all need to be reminded sometimes,” James said. “No matter how good you are, no matter what’s going on in your life, sometimes we need to be reminded why you’re here, what you’re capable of, and how much we trust each other.
“One of my jobs, as the leader of the team, is to make sure, reassure Alder how great he is, how great he is in this league, not just for this team, but for this league. .”
The Lakers are eager to see how far Davis can take them.
“He totally picked up the torch and ran with it,” Ham said. “He took us for a ride. It was great to see.”