Anthony Davis wanted to be the one to take the last shot Sunday night, to show he could thrive in a big spot on the big stage.
He got his opportunity. He did not miss.
And after he had kept the Lakers from throwing away Game 2 against the Nuggets, Davis did what millions of other people do every day on the playground, at home, in the office, anywhere there's a basket handy: He yelled, "Kobe!"
Anthony Davis said he yelled “KOBE” after hitting the game-winner tonight pic.twitter.com/VZ7z7bQQsD— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 21, 2020
The Lakers, in their Black Mamba jerseys, were 105-103 winners after Davis' homage to 8/24. They also stood two wins away from the NBA Finals after taking a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals.
Davis' shot was the Lakers' first playoff buzzer-beating winner while trailing since . . . Bryant's decider on April 30, 2006, against the Suns.
"Never want to lose in these jerseys, never want to lose at all," he told TNT's Allie LaForce in his on-court postgame interview.
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Davis, for all his talent and regular-season achievements, still needs to impress the "ringzzzz" and "clutch" crowds as he plays in his first conference finals. He took a major step in that direction with his rainbow over Denver's Nikola Jokic.
"People talk about never being in the moment, pressure, am I ready for it? I want to take those shots. It's part of the legacy. I want those shots, I want the big-time plays," he told LaForce.
"This is what they brought me here for, to make big-time plays," he added.
Davis got an open look when Denver didn't stay with him on an inbound play that began with 2.1 seconds remaining. The Nuggets double-teamed LeBron James at the elbow as Davis curled behind him to the left wing. Rajon Rondo hit him with the pass and Davis followed through.
"We ran the play, it was supposed to be for Bron. I looked at Rondo the whole time," Davis said.
The Lakers brought in Davis to form a superstar 1-2 tandem with James. Davis can't shake the sidekick label with James around, but AD played like the No. 1 option in the closing minutes Sunday night. He scored LA's final 10 points, helping to keep up a team that was sagging under the pressure of another Denver second-half comeback. He finished with a team-high 31.
"He's different," James told Spectrum SportsNet. "We heard all the noise over the last 48 hours about his ability, what he can do, some people (ESPN's Maria Taylor) not having him on the All-NBA teams and things of that nature, so he just came out and proved why he's one of the best players in the world."
In his availability with reporters inside the Orlando bubble, James said he was playing sidekick to Davis in the second half.
"To be completely honest, s—, in the second half I leaned on him, you know, and he brought us home," James said in the context of being a mentor to Davis (clip per Ben Golliver of The Washington Post).
And when Davis was asked by TNT's Charles Barkley why he isn't aggressive on some nights, Davis sounded committed to do more carrying.
"The games where I'm aggressive, it definitely carries our team, it helps our team," he said. "And that's got to be my mindset from here on out. I try to go out there and play the right way but sometimes, especially Bron, he tells me all the time, like, 'All right, it's enough passing, it's time to go to work, be aggressive, be the player that you are,'" Davis said.
In Game 2, he looked very much like a player who can win games for his team in the postseason. The Mamba-esque winner sealed it.