Lakers: Anthony Davis’s shooting journey reached its climax in Game 2

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Anthony Davis hit a buzzer-beater for a Lakers win in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, but the story of that shot began a long time ago.

Anthony Davis is a big man who insists on playing the four in the modern game, where that kind of player can almost exclusively play the five. Naturally, he is the best one in his department in the league, so his teams tend to sanction his request.

For the Los Angeles Lakers, he usually starts at the power forward and can count on several minutes with JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard on his side playing the center, but in the end, he spends most of the game at the five. It is unavoidable, that is the way the game is going and he cannot pose it if he intends to reach the ultimate goal, win the NBA championship.

The trend of the game also imposes that today every player must be able to shoot the three, even the big men. Despite spending much of the game inside the paint, AD has slowly increased his three-point attempts throughout his career.

Playing with LeBron James this season, without any other center able to consistently shoot from the arc, would have meant co-existing with his penetrations, and, for the versatile Davis, trying to incorporate the long-distance shot as much as possible.

In the regular season, head coach Frank Vogel challenged him to attempt five threes per game, although at times it did not look like a great idea. He ended up attempting 3.5 shots per game on a 33 percent accuracy.

It bottomed out in Game 1 of the first round. A laid down Davis, discouraged by a cumbersome defense in the paint of the Portland Trail Blazers deploying centers Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside at the same time, decided to remain out of it and settle for less challenging outside looks. It was tragic, resulting in an 8-for-24 from the floor, including 0-for-5 from three, and the Lakers’ loss.

That game was a turning point for Anthony. From that moment on he returned to aggressively attack the paint deploying a more strict and high-rate shot selection from the outside. This does not mean he renounced to shoot from the arc at all, rather with a more appropriate sorting.

From Game 2 through the rest of the playoffs he has been shooting 48 percent from three on 2.3 attempts per game. In the closing Game 5 of that same series, he put an end to it with a spectacular 43-point performance aided by 4-for-6 from three.

Two rounds later, on Sunday night, Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals turned into a big men head-to-head in the final minutes, when Nikola Jokic and Davis scored respectively the last 11 and 10 points of their teams. It obviously came to the two deciding the fate of the game in the closing seconds. Jokic scored the basket for the one-point lead in the post over AD.

As Harrison Faigen reported, in the subsequent timeout Rajon Rondo told him:

"That’s all right, he scored on you. Now you go get it back."

The game finished with AD hitting what he called the biggest shot of his life, a three-pointer at the buzzer contested by Jokic. Game for the Lakers. They go on a significant 2-0 advantage.

That shot is ideally the fulfillment of a long journey began the past offseason, when Vogel demanded from him to become more of the overall threat big men need to be today, and get a little bit away from the paint and the comfortable advantage of playing over inferior ‘4s’.

Next. 5 lessons from Game 2 victory. dark

Anthony Davis currently has the best field goal percentage on shots for the tie or the lead in the final 24 seconds of a game with more than 25 attempts since 1997. At still 26 years old and a long way to go, it looks promising.