NBA: After Lakers win Game 4, LeBron declares Davis Defensive Player of the Year


Posted at Oct 07 2020 04:29 PM

NBA: After Lakers win Game 4, LeBron declares Davis Defensive Player of the Year 1
LeBron James (23) of the Los Angeles Lakers and Anthony Davis (3) of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate during Game 4 of the NBA Finals on October 6, 2020 in Orlando, Florida at AdventHealth Arena. Fernando Medina, NBAE via Getty Images/AFP

If you ask LeBron James, there is no doubt in his mind that teammate Anthony Davis is the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY).

Davis, who was acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers in a blockbuster offseason trade, anchored a defense that ranked third in the NBA during the regular season. He eventually made it to the All-Defensive First Team, but lost out in the DPOY race to Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But James and the Lakers have touted Davis as the league's best defender all season long, and their belief in their big man only grew stronger after Davis' sensational performance in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.

The Lakers won the 102-96, with Davis scoring 22 points including the dagger three-pointer with 39 seconds left. It was his work on the defensive end, however, that drew the most praise as Davis served as the primary defender against Miami's Jimmy Butler.

"That's why he's the Defensive Player of the Year. We said that all year," said James after the game, when asked about Davis' versatility on defense.

"His ability to play one through five, guard anybody on the floor, take the challenge, not only guard on the perimeter, continue to protect the paint… It's hard to score on him," he said.

Butler emerged as the Lakers' primary problem after he put up 40 points in Game 3. It appeared as if he was on his way to another high-scoring game after Butler made all five of his shots in the first quarter, scoring 11 points.

Davis, however, would have none of it. With him anchoring the defense, Butler struggled the rest of the way, going just 3-of-12 from the field. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Butler made only one of his seven shots when Davis was his primary defender.

He finished as a team-high plus-17 in nearly 41 minutes of playing time.

"That guy can do everything defensively. Guarding the ball, guard the post, slide his feet with guards, contest, can body up with bigs. I mean, need I say more?" said James.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel hailed Davis' performance on both ends of the floor, after the big man showed off his poise in crunch time anew with a backbreaking three-pointer that ended Miami's hopes of a comeback.

"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," he said.

For Davis, who is playing in the NBA Finals for the first time in his career, it's a matter of focus and effort. He had not been pleased with his own performance in Game 3, when he struggled with foul trouble and finished with just 15 points.

They also had no answer for Butler in that game as the Heat guard went off for 40 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds in a 115-104 Miami win.

"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," said Davis. "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."

"Defensively, I think we were just better overall. We were locked into what we were doing," he also said.

"We still had mistakes but some of the mistakes we had, we just cover for each other. Mistakes are going to happen. But we seemed like we played with a little bit more sense of urgency tonight."