Anthony Davis has never played in the Western Conference Finals before.
So if you thought that the fact that he's never been on this stage before would lead him to shy away from the moment, you'd be mistaken.
Davis drained a three-pointer as time expired and the Los Angeles Lakers crushed the comeback hopes of the Denver Nuggets, 105-103, in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday night.
"That was a big time shot by a big time player," said Lakers' head coach Frank Vogel.
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Davis finished with a game-high 31 points, and scored the Lakers last ten points of the game.
"People talk about never being in this moment, the pressure, but I want to take those shots," said Davis on the TNT broadcast after the victory. "It's part of my legacy. I want those plays. This is what they brought me here for.
It would be excruciatingly hard to find a better one-on-one matchup than the battle that Davis and Nuggets' center Nikola Jokic put on down the stretch.
The two All-Star big men took turns hitting one big shot after another as they each put their teams on their back in the game's waning minutes.
"It's not about an individual matchup, but we executed and he came through for us," said LeBron James who was on the court as Davis and Jokic traded blows down the stretch. "Those two big shots they had at the end, those are just big time plays by big time players."
Jokic scored Denver's final 12 points of the game, including a go-ahead hook shot over Davis that gave the Nuggets a 103-102 lead with 20 seconds remaining. Jokic finished with a team-high 30 points and nine assists in the loss.
"I let him get to his strong hand, his right hand, and he made that hook," said Davis. "Rondo told me, 'It's alright he scored on you, now you go and get it back.' I made the shot and just ran towards the bench. It was a great moment, it would be even more special if it was inside Staples."
The Nuggets had an early five-point lead, but the Lakers went on an 18-3 run to go up double-digits in the first quarter. Denver couldn't match James' energy and aggression as the Lakers pulled away in the second quarter, leading by as many as 16 points before the break.
James only scored 15 points in the Lakers, 126-114, victory in Game 1, but he dished out 12 assists, finding his shooters all over the court, and deferring to his running mate, Davis on the offensive end.
James made more of an emphasis to set the tone early on the offensive end in Game 2. James scored 20 points in the first half, finishing with 26 points and 11 rebounds to help put the Lakers in a commanding position with a 2-0 lead, and the "Never Say Die" Nuggets are back in a familiar place on their heels.
"The playoffs and the postseason in general, the more you advance, no matter if you're up or down, being able to keep your composure is very important," said James. "This is the furthest he's [Anthony Davis] ever been, and I'm just happy to be a part of it and give him whatever advice I can."
For the second straight game, the Lakers were able to get their transition offense going by making stops on the defensive end. Los Angeles seemingly was able to get whatever shot they wanted on the offensive end. Those shots fell in the first half, and struggled to fall in the fourth quarter.
"To be completely honest in the second half, I leaned on him [Anthony Davis]," said James who was just 2-for-9 from the field in the second half. "He brought us home."
Like they've done throughout the NBA Playoffs, Denver erased a double-digit deficit in the second half. Trailing by as many as 16 points, the Nuggets made a furious comeback in the fourth quarter to take the lead a few times before Davis broke their hearts with his buzzer-beater.
"There's no moral victories, no silver linings," said Denver head coach Mike Malone. "We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight, but obviously Anthony Davis hits a big three to win the game at the buzzer. We're down 2-0 let's go out and win Game 3."
Throughout the fourth quarter, every time the Nuggets made a big stop, a big shot, or took the lead, the Lakers would answer with a big three of their own.
"It's a 48-minute game and leads mean nothing against this team," said Vogel. "They are incredibly difficult to guard. They are a nightmare to defend out there. Luckily we were able to prevail down the stretch."
Alex Caruso, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, James and Davis each hit threes throughout the game. The Lakers were 13-of-36 from beyond the arc in the victory.
Denver complained about the free throw disparity after they shot nine less free throws than the Lakers in Game 1. The tables were turned in Game 2, as the Nuggets shot 33 free throws compared to just 19 for the Lakers.
James was upset after Game 1 when he only received 16 votes for MVP compared to Giannis Antetokounmpo who won the award in a landslide with 85 first-place votes.
"It pissed me off. That's my true answer," James said about the results. "It pissed me off, because out of 101 votes, I got 16 first-place votes. That's what pissed me off more than anything."
James admitted Antetokounmpo was deserving of the award, but with the reigning MVP watching the NBA Playoffs from home and the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, James wants to change MVP voters' minds on the court.
The Lakers might not have this season's MVP on their team, but they are currently playing the best basketball inside the bubble, and are just two wins away from sending their franchise back to the NBA Finals.
The last time the Lakers were in the Finals was 2010, when Kobe Bryant led the team to their 16th championship in seven games over the Celtics. Bryant's spirit was felt on the court inside the bubble in Game 2, as the Lakers wore their Kobe Bryant designed "Black Mamba" jerseys in Game 2 in honor of Bryant and his daughter Gianna who wore the No. 2.
"We want to embody what Kobe Bryant stood for and honor his memory," said Vogel. "There's certain games we're going to feel it more than others and when we have these uniforms on we feel it. That's a shot Kobe Bryant would have hit. That's a Mamba Shot."
Davis agreed, and admitted he shouted "KOBE!" just like each and every one of us would have shooting a potential game-winner at the buzzer.
"He's made countless shots like that to win games," said Davis of Bryant. "Wearing these jerseys, we just feel like we play a little different. Our swag is a little different. Every time we put on those jerseys we are representing him. He created them and when we put them on we want to win. It's a constant reminder that Kobe is with us and we can feel his spirit in those jerseys. I've never hit a game-winner like that before. It's a special moment for me."
Game 3 is scheduled for 6:00PM on Tuesday night inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.