Sun | Sep 20, 2020

Lakers clinch top seed in West

Published:Wednesday | August 5, 2020 | 12:13 AM
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (centre) is defended by Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (right) and centre Rudy Gobert during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Monday, August 3, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (centre) is defended by Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (right) and centre Rudy Gobert during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Monday, August 3, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida (AP):

Anthony Davis had 42 points and 12 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference play-offs by beating the Utah Jazz 116-108 on Monday night.

The Lakers (51-15) own a six-game lead over the second-place Los Angeles Clippers and have five seeding games left before starting their first play-off run since 2013.

“If you’re winning enough games to secure the No. 1 seed, you’re building the right habits that are going to be necessary for you to win in the play-offs,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Obviously, we have bigger aspirations than the No. 1 seed, but we are proud of the accomplishment and we’ll enjoy it while we’re getting ready to get our group ready for the play-offs.”

Utah (42-25) has clinched a play-off berth and are fifth in the West, a half-game behind Houston and a half-game ahead of Oklahoma City.

Davis’ final basket resulted in a four-point play with 42 seconds left, as he sank a 3-pointer while getting fouled by Rudy Gobert and made the ensuing free throw to give the Lakers a 114-104 lead.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell answered with a four-point play of his own that cut the margin to 114-106 with 36 seconds remaining, but the Jazz couldn’t get any closer. Davis made two free throws with 5.2 seconds left to wrap up the scoring.

LeBron James scored 22 points, Dwight Howard had 11, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 10 for the Lakers.

Mitchell scored 33 and Mike Conley had 24 for Utah. Gobert added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Jazz.

The Lakers were coming off a 107-92 loss to Toronto in which Davis shot just two of seven and scored 14 points. Davis was much more active Monday right from the start, as he scored 13 points and shot six of 14 in the first quarter alone.

Davis had 24 points by half-time, marking the 20th time this season he’s scored at least 20 points in a half.

“Coach just told me to be more aggressive,” Davis said. “He felt like, and I felt like too, that I just kind of played into Toronto’s defence, accepted the double-team. I was making the right plays, but I still have to be aggressive at the same time.”

POLITICAL STATEMENT

ESPN cameras showed James arrived at the arena before the game wearing a T-shirt with the message 8:46, the amount of time prosecutors initially said a Minneapolis police officer had a knee on George Floyd’s neck before Floyd’s death on May 25.

Although prosecutors later said Derek Chauvin’s knee was actually on Floyd’s neck for 7:46, the 8:46 figure has become a major symbol in the protest movement that followed Floyd’s death, with some demonstrations including periods of silence that last that length of time.

“No one deserved to lose their life when it could have been prevented, from what I’ve seen and what the world has seen,” James said. “That’s what the T-shirt is all about. The world is watching.”

The Lakers will face Oklahoma City today, while the Jazz will also play Memphis today.