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Lakers’ LeBron James, Anthony Davis catching fire ahead of NBA playoffs

Lakers’ LeBron James, Anthony Davis catching fire ahead of NBA playoffs

The Los Angeles Lakers are currently the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference with a record of 41-32. They are also one of the conference's most polarizing teams with the postseason right around the corner.

The West’s Play-In Tournament currently includes the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Lakers and Golden State Warriors. Assuming L.A. makes it out of the loaded entry tournament, the No. 1 and 2 seeds should hope to avoid them. They are one year removed from a Western Conference Finals appearance, where they were swept by the eventual-champion Denver Nuggets.

On Tuesday, the Lakers took down Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in a 128-124 double-overtime thriller. With superstar LeBron James sidelined, big man Anthony Davis tallied 34 points and 23 rebounds through left knee pain, while guards Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell combined for 58 points and 22 assists on 17-of-42 shooting. The Lakers have proven that they can compete with the league’s top contenders when they play to their full potential.

“He assured me he was gonna push through. [The medical staff] said it was OK," head coach Darvin Ham said of Davis' performance, according to The Athletic. "Just tolerance — whatever he could tolerate. And kudos to him, man. He played his ass off.”

The Lakers followed up this rollercoaster win with a comfortable victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the absence of Davis. This matchup was highlighted by a 30-point triple-double from James, along with a 32-point performance from forward Rui Hachimura. With nine games remaining in the regular season, LA hopes to continue their five-game win streak to obtain a higher seed.

James and Davis are no strangers to finding triumph in the playoffs, winning a ring together in the 2020 NBA Bubble. Consistency is the tandem’s greatest rival, whether it’s health concerns for James or mediocre scoring games for Davis. However, both superstars rise to the occasion in the postseason.

The Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder hold the top two seeds in the West, meaning the Lakers will likely match up against one of them in the opening round. James and the Lakers are familiar with coach Mike Malone and the Nuggets’ style of play and strategy, which is one of their few hopes of winning.

However, if they find themselves facing off with the inexperienced Thunder, their chances of victory skyrocket. Led by MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, OKC is a powerhouse team. However, the differences in experience could be OKC's downfall. A battle-tested Lakers squad might end their season much earlier than expected.

The Lakers' next matchup comes on Friday night against Tyrese Haliburton and the Indiana Pacers (41-33).

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