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    Swanson: Anthony Davis, Lakers block out noise, thwart Warriors
    • May 13, 2023

    LOS ANGELES — Oh, sure.

    The resurgent, Western Conference finals-bound Lakers would have you believe they’re operating in a soundproof booth, that none of what Coach Darvin Ham characterized as “useless” and “irrelevant” noise is capable of reaching them.

    They’ll tell you they’re focused, locked in, that even if another playoff game is on TV, it’s on mute. That they’re not hearing any of it. None. Too busy turning the tide of what was a lost season into something else entirely – a wild success story.

    Definitely don’t care, they’ll say, about whatever is coming out of pundits’ mouths – even, or maybe especially, when they’re joking and expressing incredulity about Anthony Davis having to leave Game 5 after being hit in the head: “I’d be damned if I wasn’t laughing,” Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN the day after.

    All that said, if you’re a Lakers fan, you hoped the Lakers weren’t actually tuning it out. You hoped that they – and Davis especially – heard every last disrespectful utterance.

    Felt every inane insinuation insisting the NBA champion that was averaging 21.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots on a bad foot was somehow on the squishy side.

    You hoped that he’d take it upon himself to use Game 6 of the Lakers’ best-of-seven second-round series against Golden State – the 122-101 victory a deciding blow against the team that won four of the previous eight NBA titles – to stifle any and all negative chatter so that no one has to hear it.

    Though, again, to hear the Lakers tell it, it’s their inner voices that do the motivating: “You know,” Ham said, “if (Davis) felt like he had a subpar performance, he beats himself up a lot, and I just try to subside that part of him a little bit.”

    That’s what’s struck Ham about his season with Davis: “Overall, just how much he loves the game. How much he cares.”

    And no, Davis wasn’t concussed and so, yes, he played Friday night, on the Arena court 2½ hours before tipoff, taking care of his business. He was greeted, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, by Golden State’s Gary Patyton II: “C’mon, just take the night off, bro,” before Davis went through his warmup routine.

    The Warriors wished!

    From the jump – which he won – Davis was a dutiful deterrent to would-be drivers, including heading off Golden State scoring sensation Steph Curry on his forays forward.

    And Davis was a vacuum on the glass, sucking up 10 of his 20 rebounds in his first 10 minutes of play. He finished the first quarter with a near double-double, adding nine points in an 11-minute span during which the Lakers outscored Golden State by 13 points.

    And here’s the thing: All the while, the 30-year-old big man was playing within himself. Hardly a rabid bulldog with a bone to pick, more a man embodying a sailplane, gliding over all those peaks and valleys below.

    And though Davis’ statistical production dipped in his nine second-quarter minutes, it was a stretch in which the Lakers outscored Golden State by six points and that he capped with a rousing block of a Donte DiVincenzo shot. And his swat set up Austin Reaves’ roof-raising, buzzer-beating 54-footer to push the Lakers’ halftime advantage to 56-46.

    It wasn’t until the third quarter that the temperature really rose, when Davis dunked a lob from LeBron, spun around, swiped the inbound pass and drew a shooting foul – and then he let loose a scream.

    As he stalked down the court emotions bubbled behind him too: Dennis Schroder was assessed a technical foul – a disqualifying second – for jawing from the other side of the ball being pushed into his face by Draymond Green, who drew his first technical.

    And Davis kept working, staying on the court beside James – who scored 10 of his 30 points in the period – for all 12 minutes of the third. They kept the core of the four-time world champion Warriors at arm’s length, 14 points off the pace with only the final quarter left between the Lakers and a Western Conference finals berth against the top-seeded Denver Nuggets.

    Will Davis’ 39 minutes, 17 points and those 20 rebounds, two blocks and two steals in Friday’s closeout victory over the defending champions be enough to shush those detractors?

    Actually, who cares?

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    ​ Orange County Register