The two stars played like the stars they are, the dominant performances by LeBron James and Anthony Davis helping the Lakers end a long and arduous six-game trip in a successful fashion.
But this 124-117 win over the Detroit Pistons was about more than just LeBron James’ 35 points, five assists and five rebounds, or Anthony Davis’ 34 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.
It was also about Austin Reaves stepping up when the game became more tense than the Lakers would have liked. It was about Reaves calmly knocking down the clinching three-pointer in the waning seconds of a contest at Little Caesars Arena in front of 20,190 fans on Sunday.
With James, Davis and Reaves delivering in the key moments, the Lakers ended a three-game losing streak and finished their six-game trip over 11 days at 3-3.
“I think it was a good trip for us,” James said. “It was a good bonding trip for us to hit the road, an 11-day, 12-day road trip for these six games. Obviously, we started very high and then injuries, illnesses kind of got our rhythm off and had some guys sit out games. But for the majority of the trip, I thought we played good basketball. We ended on a high note, so that’s always good.”
The Lakers began the trip with the biggest win of the season at Milwaukee and carried that over to a win at Washington.
Then Davis got flu-like symptoms during a loss at Cleveland and played just eight minutes before departing the game. He missed the game at Toronto because he was still ill, while James missed that game because of left ankle soreness.
Both were back for the game at Philadelphia, but that was a painful overtime loss, when Davis made just one of two free throws in the fourth quarter that left the score tied instead of giving the Lakers a one-point lead and a potential victory.
Davis made up for that against the Pistons, producing 22 points and eight rebounds in the second half.
“Yeah, this was a must-win for us. We knew that,” Davis said. “I lost the game for us in Philly. And then me and Bron miss a game, and I didn’t play in Cleveland. So, we consider this a successful trip, you know, .500. And the last game is always the toughest, because you going back home, been on the road for 11 days. Can’t wait to get back to your families and back in your own bed, things like that.”
Behind 38 points from Bojan Bogdanovic, who has been linked to the Lakers as a trade target recently, the Pistons chased down the Lakers in the fourth.
An eight-point Lakers lead with 2 minutes 10 seconds left was sliced to two points after Bogdanovic scored.
Then Reaves stepped up big for the Lakers at the right moment, taking a pass from James in the corner and drilling a three-pointer with 12.4 seconds left for a 122-117 lead.
Like Davis, Reaves was still smarting over his role in the loss to the 76ers. He had been fouled shooting a three-pointer and had a chance to tie the score late. But he made just two of three free throws, leaving the Lakers down one.
Reaves, however, atoned for that miss.
“Like, arguably the greatest player ever, for him to have the confidence in me builds my confidence,” Reaves said of James’ pass to the corner. “But I’ve always been a very confident person playing basketball. So, I think, like I said, it goes both ways. But like I said, 20 years down the road I’ll probably think back to times like this and be like, ‘Damn, like it was arguably one of the greatest players ever having trust in me,’ which is special.”
James had 13 points and two assists in the fourth quarter, his biggest pass going to Reaves when the moment mattered the most.
“Anytime he’s on the floor with me, I trust him to make the play,” James said. “Either if he has the ball in his hands or I have it, I want to try to find him and that’s what I was able to see at the end of the game and they left him open. I was able to find him and he was able to do what he do best and knocked it down.”