LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anthony Davis hit a long floater with 4:39 remaining to reach 50 points for the first time with the Los Angeles Lakers. The shot that got him to the half-century mark was hardly representative of the work that preceded it.
Davis had a relentless series of fast-break points, second-chance opportunities and attacks in the paint that pummeled the Minnesota Timberwolves, a performance Lakers coach Frank Vogel described as a “smash mouth way of getting 50.
“No 3s, 20 for 29, and then living at the free throw line, post ups, offensive rebounds, crashes, all those types of things. Just an old-school performance and one for the ages,” Vogel said.
Davis had a season-high 50 points and the Lakers improved to a league-best 21-3 with a 142-125 win over the Timberwolves on Sunday night.
Davis was 20 of 29 from the field and made all 10 of his free throws to go along with seven rebounds and six assists, reaching the 50-point mark for the fourth time in his career.
“It was very special to do something like this in front of these great fans, a historical franchise and my teammates, especially the way we’ve been playing,” Davis said. “It was nothing but amazing.”
LeBron James had 32 points and 13 assists despite committing four fouls in the first half. Alex Caruso added 16 points as the Lakers won their fourth straight and improved to 10-2 at home.
While it looked like it could be a special night for Davis as he hit his first six shots, including a thunderous dunk on a no-look alley-oop from James as he racked up seven of the Lakers’ first nine points, the eighth-year forward was a bit more cautious.
“I mean, I’ve had nights where I started off like that and ended up with 30 and didn’t score in the second half,” Davis said.
But it was evident Davis would keep adding to his total. He was at his most relentless to close the first half, helping fuel an 11-0 run that gave the Lakers a 73-65 lead at the “break after James got his fourth foul with 2:27 left in the second quarter.
Much of Davis’ damage this season had come off the pick-and-roll with James, but Vogel was impressed how he was able to be effective without the Lakers’ primary ball handlers in James or Rajon Rondo on the court. Rondo did not play because of a strained hamstring.
To James, however, it was just Davis doing what he can do.
“He’s had to carry a franchise before, so I don’t think it’s anything foreign to him,” James said.
Davis had 42 points through three quarters, one more than his previous single-game high this season, 41 points in his return to New Orleans on Nov. 27. He tacked on 15 points in the third, but balanced scoring allowed Minnesota to stay within 110-103 as the quarter closed.
The Timberwolves had seven players with at least 12 points, including all five starters. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins each had 19 points as Minnesota lost its fourth straight game.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Lakers could finally relax, with Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins keeping Davis informed on his progress before he finally got to 50 for the first time since Feb. 26, 2018.
While Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders couldn’t help but be impressed with Davis’ ability to do “everything” on offense, he viewed it as an important lesson for how his team needs to compete with the NBA’s best.
“I think it was a good measuring stick for us to see what the elite teams in this league (can do), how the physicality is, playing a complete game and minimizing your mistakes,” Saunders said. “If you have a minute and a half lapse in game plan, discipline, you see what can happen. They just overwhelm you.”
Timberwolves: Towns passed Anthony Peeler (465) for second-most 3-pointers in team history. … G Shabazz Napier tied a season-high with 13 points. He also had 13 in the Timberwolves’ last game, a 137-129 overtime loss at Oklahoma City on Friday.
Lakers: C Dwight Howard celebrated his 34th birthday with eight points and six rebounds in 22 energetic minutes off the bench. … G Rajon Rondo did not play because of a strained hamstring. … G Avery Bradley (leg) is likely to return during the Lakers’ upcoming trip after being cleared for full contact, coach Frank Vogel said. Bradley participated in 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 work in practice Sunday. He has not played since Nov. 13 because of a hairline fracture.
The Lakers are 21-3 for the first time since 2008-09, when they went on to win the NBA title in Pau Gasol’s first full season playing alongside Kobe Bryant. But James isn’t ready to start evaluating where these Lakers stack up. “I’m the last person you should ask a question like that,” James said. “I live too much in the moment. All I care about is what we did tonight and how we can get better tomorrow.”
The Timberwolves allowed 17 of the Lakers’ 32 fast-break points in the first quarter. Saunders said that did not reflect how they made it for Los Angeles at the start. “I think there was one point where they made four passes and had 11 points in the game. And when I say four passes, I mean, they just outleted the ball, threw it down,” Saunders said.
Timberwolves: Wrap up a three-game trip at Phoenix on Monday.
Lakers: Open a five-game trip at Orlando on Wednesday.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports