ORLANDO • It was a “special moment” for Anthony Davis on Sunday night when he drained a three-pointer as time expired, to seal the Los Angeles Lakers’ 105-103 win over the Denver Nuggets for a 2-0 lead in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference Finals.
But to his coach Frank Vogel, the dramatic buzzer beater was nothing new to the Lakers.
“That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit,” he said of the team’s Hall of Fame guard who died aged 41 in January in a helicopter crash.
“To me, AD coming off, just flying to the wing like that, catch-and-shoot with the biggest game on the line of our season, nothing but net, it’s a Mamba shot.”
The Lakers were wearing their “Black Mamba” jerseys, co-designed by Bryant, and Davis could not be prouder.
“Special moment for me, special moment for the team, especially in a situation like that trying to go up 2-0 against a special team, who are great competitors and (fought) for the entire 48 minutes,” he said.
“People talk about (how I’ve) never been in this moment before, pressure, am I ready for it? I want to take those shots.
“So, to do something like in the jerseys we wore tonight makes it even more special.”
He led all scorers with 31 points and pulled down nine rebounds.
LeBron James had 26 points and 11 rebounds as the Lakers turned back the determined Nuggets, who had taken a 103-102 lead on Nikola Jokic’s driving basket with 20.8 seconds remaining.
Jokic scored 11 straight points for the Nuggets down the stretch, finishing with 30 points, six rebounds and nine assists to lead Denver.
Davis and Jokic traded baskets down the stretch, Jokic tipping in a miss from Jamal Murray to put the Nuggets up 101-100 with 31.8 seconds left, only for Davis to answer at the other end.
After Jokic scored to put the Nuggets ahead by one again, the Lakers’ Alex Caruso missed a three-pointer, and Murray blocked a shot by Danny Green, giving the Lakers a chance to inbound the ball.
Rajon Rondo found Davis, and the All-Star forward drained the game-winning basket over Jokic.
“We put the effort, we put the fight,” Jokic said. “Maybe we lost the game, but I think we played well.
“Most of the game we were down, but we came back again, so we’re going to keep our heads up and (go) on to the next one.”
For Davis, the game winner was a career moment for a player who sought a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans so he would have a chance to challenge for an NBA title.
“Special moment for a special player,” James reiterated.
“It’s not about making the shot, it’s about having the belief of just taking it, and living with the result. Tonight was his moment, big-time play.”
The Lakers will try to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series today in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS