Anthony Davis on Monday scored 42 points as the Los Angeles Lakers clinched top seeding in the Western Conference with a 116-108 defeat of the Utah Jazz.
Stung by a defeat to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday last week, the Lakers roared back in impressive fashion to overpower a talented Utah lineup.
The win sealed top spot in the West for the Lakers for the first time since 2010, when the late Kobe Bryant would go on to lead the team to the NBA Finals crown.
Davis on Monday also racked up 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
LeBron James finished with 22 points and nine assists, as the Lakers finally pulled away from a stubborn Utah side.
“All the stuff we’ve been through this season, to clinch No. 1 in the West means a lot, but we’re not finished,” Davis said. “It’s just one of the milestones of many to get to where we want to be.”
Davis’ points haul included 23 in the first half alone. It was the 20th time Davis has scored 20 points or more in the first half as a Laker, the first player from the franchise to achieve that feat since Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January.
“I know he’s looking down on us, cheering us on,” Davis added.
In another matchup, Toronto’s Fred VanVleet scored a career-high 36 points as the Raptors dug deep to defeat the Miami Heat 107-103 in their Eastern Conference clash.
VanVleet led the scoring for the Raptors with a haul that included seven three-pointers from 12 attempts, as Toronto improved to 48-18 to remain in second place in the East.
VanVleet also made a big contribution defensively for the Raptors, later on forcing a deflection of a Jimmy Butler pass that denied Miami an opportunity for a game-tying score.
It was an all-round display that left Raptors coach Nick Nurse purring with pleasure after the victory.
“What makes his defense unique is that he doesn’t look very fast out there, but his lateral side-to-side speed and the way he can move his feet is incredible — it’s deceiving,” Nurse said of VanVleet.
The Raptors’ Pascal Siakam finished with 22 points and three assists, while Kyle Lowry had 14 points and Serge Ibaka made 15.
Goran Dragic led the Miami scorers with 25 points, while Kelly Olynyk had 17 off the bench and Butler and Jae Crowder had 16 points apiece.
Also on Monday, Nikola Jokic had a triple-double as the Denver Nuggets overpowered the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 121-113 overtime victory.
Jokic finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a stellar performance for Denver, who improved to 44-23 with the win.
The Nuggets remain third in the Western Conference standings behind the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Michael Porter led the scoring for the Nuggets with a career-high 37 points, while Paul Millsap and Monte Morris had 17 points apiece.
The Thunder’s scoring was led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with 24 points, while Chris Paul had 23 points and Danilo Gallinari had 20.
Jokic said the victory was a reward for the hard work that the Nuggets have put in behind the scenes since being sequestered inside the NBA’s “bubble.”
“We needed it,” Jokic said. “For the guys that are here, this is I think their 24th day, 27th day that they are here — they are working.”
Last week, the NBA restarted its season after a four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The relaunched season is taking place with 22 teams based inside a secured zone at Disney World in Orlando.
In other early action on Monday, the Indiana Pacers defeated the Washington Wizards 111-100, thanks to a 34-point double-double from T.J. Warren.
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two
‘GREAT COMPETITOR’: Former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was tested by American teenager Coco Gauff, before the Spaniard advanced in three sets Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Thursday cruised into the quarter-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia by handing their Japanese opponents a rare “double bagel,” a feat matched by US Open losing finalist Victoria Azarenka in the women’s singles. Top seeds Hsieh and Strycova took just 49 minutes to see off the challenge of Japanese duo Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya 6-0, 6-0 on the clay courts at the Foro Italico in Rome. The Taiwanese-Czech duo saved both break points they faced and converted six of 14, winning 62 percent of their first