Here’s a joke for you. So a king, a freak, and a claw all walk into a bar. Guess who walked out?
In what was certainly the biggest weekend in the NBA this year, the Los Angeles Lakers emerged triumphantly. On Friday night, the Lakers played the top-seeded Milwaulkee Bucks and came out victorious, 113-103. Less than 48 hours later, the Lakers beat the cross-hall Los Angeles Clippers in the most anticipated match-up of 2020. The score? 112-103.
So how does this make the Lakers the best team in the league?
Because the odds were stacked against them in both games, and the stakes were incredulously high. Let’s break it down.
Friday Night? The Battle of the MVP’s. The narrative going into this game was centered on the battle between two MVP hopeful’s LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks already beat the Lakers earlier this season pretty soundly. Some of the questions that floated on twitter and the sports talk shows went something like this:
Can Giannis keep his foot on LeBron’s neck and win the MVP?
Are the Bucks going to wipe out the Lakers if the Lakers make it to the finals?
Is Lebron too old to play consistent defense on Giannis?
The MVP race is not even close between Giannis and Lebron right? It’s gotta be just Giannis right?
On Friday night by 10:00 PST, we received our answer to all of those questions.
James validated his MVP candidacy and elevated his play to heights unseen this season. With 37 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, James gave the world a forceful reminder that the best player in the game wears #23 and plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. But what mattered most Friday night, was the jaw-dropping defense displayed by James on Giannis. Yes, the Lakers have the #3 ranked defense in the league this year, but the King has been known for coasting defensively the last few years. So with this new defensive approach to a taller, longer, younger, and faster player in Antetokounmpo, it felt like Prime James during the Miami Heat run back at the start of the 2010’s.
MEAN MUG BRON 😤
LeBron has been up to the challenge tonight against Giannis. pic.twitter.com/366y8Tsxqn
— ESPN (@espn) March 7, 2020
Then on Sunday, it was a win by committee. The Clippers already beat the hell out of the Lakers twice during the opening night and Christmas Day. Today was different. Both teams came into the Staples Center rolling on at least a three-game win streak. This game was billed as the Battle of Los Angeles. A more hyped fight than Wilder/Fury Part II. Anthony Davis led the way with 30 points and eight rebounds, followed by a significantly improved LeBron stat line: 28 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds.
Lebron has averaged 20.5 points and 9 assists this season against the Clippers.
— Czar Mark of Evolix (@evolixmedia) March 8, 2020
Avery Bradley (who I motion should receive the nickname “AB”, effectively removing it from NFL wide-out Antonio Brown) posted a season-high 24 points and a strong defense against the Clippers backcourt of Lou Williams and Patrick Beverly. The Lakers have struggled to find a consistent third scorer all season, but one seemingly emerges when it is needed most. Oh, and here’s a shocker: The Clippers were outscored by 17 points with Kawhi Leonard on the floor.
Is that going to happen again?
Probably not. But make no mistake, that is NOT a regular occurrence. Leonard is unassailably one of the top three players in the league. It also stands to be said that Clippers not named Leonard, Paul George, or Montrezl Harrell combined to shoot 9-of-45 from the field for only 25 points.
Oh and then there was this.
Great defense by Bron pic.twitter.com/tKMdTA0pts
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) March 8, 2020
James played damn near suffocating defense on Leonard all night, who still had a remarkable 27 points, but tallied zero assists and shot 22.2% from the three-point line on Sunday afternoon. In back-to-back games, James played his best defense against the second and third best players respectively in the NBA.
While the Lakers left the Staples Center feeling emboldened, center Javale McGee took it one step further.
“The Lake Show [is] the best team in the world right now.” McGee told ESPN.
I couldn’t agree more Javale.