By LARRY VAUGHT
Remember the 2012 national championship game when Kentucky beat Kansas and Anthony Davis sacrificed his scoring to concentrate on defense and rebounding for John Calipari’s team.
Guess what? His mentality has not changed.
Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers took a 3-1 lead over Miami in the NBA Finals with a 102-96 win Tuesday. Davis had 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists, four blocks and one steal in 41 minutes, 31 seconds of playing time.
But what was most impressive is that Davis drew the primary defensive assignment on Heat guard Jimmy Butler, who had 40 points in Miami’s Game 3 win. Butler had 22 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three steals in 43 minutes but Davis did not let him dominate like he did in Game 3.
“You don’t have to say anything to Anthony Davis,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He wants this more than anything. Obviously he’s a great player capable of imposing his will on the game on both ends of the floor. You saw what he did tonight defensively, and obviously that big three helped seal it, but was great on both ends all night.”
Davis has a chance to be the first Kentucky player to win a NCAA title, Olympic gold medal and NBA championship in the Lakers close out this series the way most expect.
“I had the task of guarding Jimmy Butler, and so I just tried to be locked in to him,” Davis said after Tuesday’s game. “We know that the past — the last game, he kind of just took over and imposed his will on the game on both ends of the floor, and we just tried to give him a different look. Tried to make him shoot over a contested hand, finish over the length at the rim. Just make it tough for him. It was very easy for him in Game 3. We just wanted to switch it up.
“I wanted to use a lot of my energy on the defensive end, knowing the other guys on the team were going to make up the absence for me on the offensive end. The guys did a good job making shots, making plays for our team, especially late game.”
Butler was 5-for-5 from the field in the first quarter but 3-for-12 the rest of the game due in large part to Davis’ defense.
“We just wanted to give him a different look, honestly. We were actioning a lot out of Bron. I just told Bron, I’ll take him. You’re coming down and we want you to run the screen-and-roll, get in the paint, get fouled, find guys, get back, guard Jimmy. Like I’ll take some of that load off of him and I’ll guard him, and if I pick up a quick foul, then you take him,” Davis said.
“I wasn’t in foul trouble tonight, and I was able to stay on him most of the game. Coming in with the mindset of knowing what he just did to us Game 3, very easy for him. The floor was very open. He got what he wanted. And me coming in, knowing that I was guarding him, I just wanted to take all that away and just make it difficult for him. I just did that to the best of my ability tonight.”