Los Angeles Lakers: The team’s best weekend in seven years

The Los Angeles Lakers are back in the playoffs after clinching their first playoff berth in seven years with the help of LeBron James and Anthony Davis

The Los Angeles Lakers just had their best weekend since they made the playoffs with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard seven years ago by clinching their first playoff appearance since then with their new look supercharged roster of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and in a reduced role… Dwight Howard.

This past weekend, the Lakers beat who many consider being the two best teams in the league in Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers to prove that they are in fact the best team in the NBA.

It was simply epic starting with the Lakers taking on the Bucks featuring an epic one-on-one matchup between Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James, who are also the top two candidates to win the NBA MVP.

Reigning MVP Giannis strode to the rim with ease as he usually does finishing with acrobatic layups and vicious dunks with the explosiveness of Russell Westbrook and power of Shaquille O’Neal. LeBron was showing off his full arsenal of skills as usual but being more aggressive on the scoring end with a particularly impressive dunk as he pump-faked Brook Lopez, dribbled left and rose up high for the two-handed slam dunk right into the body of the big man.

The league’s top two MVP candidates pulled out their full arsenal of moves at The Staples Center with James even doing turnaround Kobe fadeaways and multiple slam dunks that it made it look more like he was 25 than 35. LeBron hit a couple of 3-pointers for good measure even though he was getting to the rim all weekend with his unstoppable combination of speed and power.

Giannis began to answer back by also hitting some 3’s, improving on his biggest point of criticism to date thus far, which is eerily similar to criticism of LeBron’s jump shot early in his career. The war waged on with LeBron acrobatically twisting his body switching from his left to right hand with creative finishes.

Giannis even hit an uncharacteristic fadeaway himself over LeBron, but LeBron came back and closed out the game with an epic spin-move that translated into a powerful left-handed throw down.

It was so awesome that it even made legendary ESPN commentator, also a former NBA  player and coach, Mark Jackson bust out his classic catchphrase, “mama, there goes that man.”

The NBA doesn’t get much better during the regular season than its top two superstars and teams doing battle.

In this round, it looked as though King James still reigned supreme with a virtuoso 38-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist performance and a great performance on both ends of the floor with his defensive prowess particularly guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Lakers clinched their first playoff berth since April 2013.

Davis had a combined 60 points and 17 rebounds in the Lakers’ two victories over the weekend and has been playing out of his mind as of late.

On Sunday, the epic battle of LA was on full display as LeBron and Anthony Davis’s Lakers clashed against Kawhi and Paul George’s Clippers. The Lakers and Clippers share the same stadium both playing at the Staples Center so technically this was a Clippers home game. However, since it was LA, which always has been and always will be a Laker town with their 16 championships to the Clippers 0, Lakers fans were out in full force and it sounded more like their home crowd all night.

This rivalry features many interesting components. Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James have played each other twice in the NBA Finals, both on different teams then, with LeBron’s Heat besting Kawhi Leonard’s Spurs in 2013 and Kawhi getting revenge on LeBron in 2014 winning finals MVP by playing historic defense on him throughout the championship series. Both players also have a chance to become the first player to win the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Trophy with three different teams this postseason.

The Clippers represent the gritty underbelly of LA with a group of talented misfits including scrappy defender Patrick Beverly, arguably the greatest bench player of all time in Lou Williams and breakout interior force Montrezl Harrell. The faces of the Clippers include one of the best defensive players in the NBA, who had his highest scoring average ever with 28 points as a top 3 MVP candidate last season in the veteran Paul George and reigning Finals MVP with the Raptors, a two-time NBA champion and two-time Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard… not to mention he was the 2015 and 2016 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

After winning his duel against the reigning regular-season MVP it was now time for LeBron to show why he is still the best player in the world against the reigning NBA Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard who LeBron has already lost to twice in the regular season and was even accused of shying away from guarding in their first matchup. However, this time around LeBron and the Lakers were looking to make a statement as LeBron and Kawhi guarded each other nearly every possession they were on the floor.

LeBron was once again showing off all his moves with some flashy passes, powerful finishes including two strong and-1 finishes around the rim and even a three-pointer near the beginning of the second quarter. Kawhi was also going off including a spin move on LeBron James leading to a two-handed dunk on Markieff Morris, whose brother plays on the LA Clippers adding to the intrigue of this inter-city rivalry. Kawhi continued dunking with silky smooth dribbles and mid-range moves that would have made Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson proud.

Kawhi was great, but LeBron was on a mission as he turned it up another notch in the fourth quarter with another 3, also converting a finger roll after dribbling and jumping in the air through the entire Clippers roster as well as his third and-1 layup of the night while the Lakers were up by 11 with 40 seconds to play.

LeBron finished the night with 28 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Avery Bradley added 24 points, including six 3-pointers. Anthony Davis led the team in scoring with 30 points.

Next: NBA: Ranking the top 20 players that impact the game in non-scoring roles

The Lakers are officially going back to the playoffs where they rightfully belong and almost never missed up until their drought began after their last appearance in 2013 seven years ago (the Lakers as a franchise had only previously missed the playoffs six times dating back to the 1950s).

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