Hernandez: Lakers have a flair for making the extraordinary look routine
The pass traveled almost the entire length of the court, from LeBron James at the Lakers’ free-throw line to Anthony Davis near the left sideline deep on the other end.
Davis started toward the baseline, only to suddenly spin counterclockwise around Robert Covington. Karl-Anthony Towns retreated to help, but not in time to stop Davis from throwing down a two-handed dunk.
What was most remarkable about that sequence midway through the first quarter was how unremarkable the play was in the context of the 142-125 demolition of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Or this season, for that matter.
The Lakers are making the extraordinary look routine. They have become the Harlem Globetrotters, and every other team is the Washington Generals.
Davis scored an effortless 50 points Sunday night at Staples Center. The Lakers improved to an easy 21-3, the best mark in the NBA.
A week earlier, their record could be downplayed as a reflection of their soft early-season schedule. They then went on a trip in which they downed the Nuggets in Denver and the Jazz in Utah.
Now, the question asked a week ago has to be asked again, except this time without the insinuation the Lakers might be frauds.
How good are they?
“We’re a good team,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We’re a really good team. We have confidence to win every time we take the floor throughout the league, whether we’re at home or on the road.”
The Lakers are 11-1 in away games. They’re on pace to become only the third team in league history to win more than 70 games.
As much happiness as they inspire on the basketball court, these Showtime Lakers are absolute killjoys when it comes to pondering whether they are, or could be, a historically good team.
“I’m the last person you could ask a question like that,” James said. “I live too much in the moment.”
Vogel was no more helpful, but he at least smiled.
“Not really allowing myself to go there,” Vogel said. “To me, I wake up every day 0-0. I’m asking my team to do the same and to look at only the game in front of us. All that stuff comes with your jobs. The media can talk about those things.”
The reality is that conversations about their place in history are probably premature. The Clippers, who are expected to be their greatest obstacle to a championship, are still learning how to play together.
The Lakers are closer to the team they want to be in the playoffs. Vogel went as far to say he was taken aback by how quickly James and Davis have meshed.
Highlights from the Lakers’ win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.
“To me, the two of them have hit the ground running, right from the start of the training camp,” Vogel said. “Both on and off the basketball court, their chemistry has been seamless, I think to the surprise of all of us. We all thought there would be a little bit more of a learning curve.”
Davis leads the Lakers in scoring at 27.7 points per game. James is close behind at 25.9. James also tops the NBA with 10.8 assists per game.
The Lakers scored 32 fast-break points Sunday, and Vogel acknowledged that he didn’t think that part of their game would be this developed as this stage of the season.
Davis’ ability to run the court was a reason why he only required to 29 shot attempts to score 50 points. Vogel also pointed to the four steals and one block Davis registered, saying the team can push the ball up the court better when it gets stops.
And, of course, there is James, who had 13 assists to go with 32 points of his own.
“LeBron James is just, he’s unbelievable with his throw-ins,” Vogel said. “He’s just putting the ball on target, in narrow spaces and getting guys easy layups.”
On the play after the one described above, JaVale McGee went up for a defensive rebound and made a touch pass to James, who again unfurled a cross-court pass to Davis for an uncontested layup.
“I think as a team we’re finding a rhythm,” Davis said. “That’s why we were able to score so many points. I think the way we approach the game now, just knowing that we’re finding our rhythm offensively, I think the whole team is playing at a high level.”
And perhaps a historical level.