Anthony Davis was built for these moments.
With just 2.1 seconds left, and the Denver Nuggets nursing a one-point lead, Davis hit a three to secure a 2-0 series lead for the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
The gravity of the moment echoed all of the clutch buckets the late Kobe Bryant hit for this iconic franchise.
After the game, Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel reflected on the energy Davis and the Lakers channeled in their nail-biting victory.
“We want to embody what Kobe Bryant stood for and honor his memory,” Vogel said. “Obviously there’s certain games where we’re gonna feel it a little more than others, when we have that uniform on, I think we feel it more than others. That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit. So to me, AD coming off, flying through the wing like that, catch-and-shoot with the game on the line in the biggest moment of our season, nothing but net, that’s a Mamba shot.”
Davis put up 31 points and nine rebounds in the win, but it was his late-game heroics that will be remembered.
Davis And The “Mamba Mentality”
Perhaps emboldened by the “Black Mamba” jerseys honoring the late Kobe Bryant, Davis shouted “Kobe!” after he sunk the game-winning shot.
Anthony Davis confirmed that he yelled “KOBE!” after drilling the game winning shot. pic.twitter.com/6b8N5Z9J7c
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 21, 2020
“Obviously, we’re representing him,” he said. “Especially in those jerseys. It’s his jersey, one he created, and any time we put it on, we want to win.”
Davis also discussed the coaching tactics Vogel utilized to instill confidence in his players.
Vogel reminded his team of the legacy Bryant left behind and the significance of the uniforms they put on.
“He said, ‘Look at the jerseys you have on. He would have made big-time plays. So it’s time for us to make big-time plays,'” Davis said about Vogel’s midgame speech. “Just looking down at the jersey and Coach telling us, it’s a constant reminder that Kobe is with us, and we kind of have the spirit in those jerseys.”
Silencing The Doubters
Long criticized for shrinking in the big moments, Davis single-handedly willed his team to victory when his team began to crumble.
The Lakers looked to be in control for most of the night, even leading by 16 points midway through the third quarter.
However, the Nuggets never wavered in the face of adversity and slowly chipped away at the deficit.
Led by Nikola Jokic’s 30 points and nine rebounds, they even took the lead in the fourth quarter.
But with just five minutes left in regulation, Davis and Jokic proceeded to take over the game.
The two superstars combined to score the game’s final 22 points, trading leads until the closing seconds.
Jokic’s putback shot with 21 seconds left looked to be like the icing on Denver’s comeback victory.
His Herculean efforts were all for naught, though, as Davis and the Lakers got the last laugh.
Los Angeles and Denver play Game 3 tonight with a tip-off at 6 P.M. PDT.