Lakers road show rolls on as LeBron James, Anthony Davis dazzle in Atlanta
ATLANTA — Danny Green should be used to this scene by now.
All of the lights, the crowded locker room scene after games, the stands filled with Lakers fans in arena after arena.
The grown men wearing head-to-toe Lakers garb. Fans waiting outside of the team hotel trying to get a glimpse of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the NBA’s greatest road show. It’s all a part of the experience.
And still, Green cracks up laughing every time he thinks about it.
This is a lot to digest, even for a player who has played on the biggest stage. Earlier in his career, Green played with LeBron in Cleveland. He battled James for championships twice wearing a Spurs uniform, going 1-1 in those matchups. And he won a title last season in Toronto, so that electric feeling of performing when the lights shine brightest remains fresh.
But this — crazy as it sounds — feels unique.
“It does seem different and that’s because this is America’s team,” Green said. “And you don’t understand that until you become a part of it. Plus you’ve got two superstars — one the greatest superstar of his era, who is arguably the greatest of all time and been doing it for 17 years. That you are a part of that and this organization and all it stands for … let’s just say it magnifies everything.”
The Lakers are riding high, winners of seven straight games overall and 14 straight on the road after Sunday night’s 101-96 victory over the Hawks at State Farm Arena. It’s the second-longest streak road winning streak in franchise history. The stakes and the crowds just keep getting bigger. This Lakers road show makes stops in Indiana (Tuesday, 7 ET; NBA TV) and Milwaukee (Thursday, 8 ET; TNT), a contest that will pit the hottest two teams in the league.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Bucks against LeBron, AD and these Lakers in prime time? It’s the type of night veterans like Green relish, knowing that they’ll get to test themselves against the best of the best.
“We know the magnifying glass is much bigger this season, but for good reason,” Green said. “Especially when you have the superstars you have and you’re winning games, that’s not a bad thing. We don’t overlook anyone or anything. We know the schedule. We’d prefer to fly under the radar like any team, but we know it’s tough being in one of the big-market cities and in an organization that is historic in the people, places and things that have happened, just so many great things.
“But we’re trying to feed off of it in a positive way. Only look at the positives, eliminate the negatives. Head down and keep grinding away, that’s how we’re handling this.”
It’s made much easier on nights like this one, when LeBron and AD play at the height of their powers, against a game but overmatched Hawks team.
LeBron put on a show, scoring 23 of his 32 points before halftime and finishing with 13 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks.
“He was spectacular,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He had some all-time clips, the drop pass to Dwight [Howard], there were a few of them. Obviously, he was terrific, and he was a huge part of the win.”
James was the catalyst as usual, and made sure everyone got in on the fun — check the wicked between-the-legs assist of a Dwight Howard dunk Vogel’s referenced — during what turned into an emotional weekend of him watching his oldest son shine in a game against his alma mater in Ohio Saturday night.
He was locked in early on against the Hawks — not that he hasn’t been all season — and playing to a crowd that loved every single second of the show.
“Sometimes plays just develop on their own, and it’s my job as the ball handler to see the whole floor,” James said. “Dwight was trailing down the middle, I caught a glimpse of him in my peripheral and just tried to look off the defense and saw big fella trailing down the middle. I just tried to put it on time and on target.”
Davis stayed locked in as well, finishing with 27 points, 13 rebounds three assists and two blocks. The Lakers used their size advantage to dominate the paint, — outrebounding the Hawks 56-42 and outscoring them 54-34.
They also ran their record to 10-0 when holding opponents under 100 points and improved to 8-1 against Eastern Conference opponents.
Not even a season-high 22 turnovers could derail them against a Hawks team that stayed in it until the very end, lead by 30 points from explosive point guard Trae Young.
The rest of the team is perfectly fit around those two stars.
Hawks Guard Trae Young
“It was a good fight,” Young said. “LeBron was LeBron tonight. And also AD (was AD). It’s tough whenever they’re going at a high level. They’re both great players. If they were just half of what they usually are, maybe we’d get the win. But they were just being their best selves tonight.”
What’s becoming increasingly clear is just how effective the supporting cast round LeBron and Davis has become. Green sank the free throws to seal the win.
“The rest of the team is perfectly fit around those two stars,” Young said. “They’ve got guys around him them like Rondo, Avery Bradley and other starters like Danny and (Kentavious) Caldwell-Pope. Those guys can play. They’re no slouches and they’re great players too.”
And there will be nights when the highlight machine isn’t going to carry the Lakers to the finish. For all of the flashy plays they make, they’ll need to be able to grind defensively when necessary to finish what they’ve started.
“We know that is how you win championships,” Davis said. “Any team that wins championships is usually top five in defense, and we want to make sure that we hang our hats on defense. We are not going to be able to shoot the ball well every night, but we can defend every night.
“That is nothing but energy and effort, and everybody on this team wants to play defense. It’s contagious when you have a lot of guys that want to play defense.”
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