Anthony Davis was dominant through the first two games of the 2020 NBA Finals.
Averaging 33.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 blocks per game on 63.4% shooting from the field, it appeared as though the Miami Heat had no answer for the Los Angeles Lakers star.
In Game 3, we saw a completely different version of Davis.
Scoring just 15 points on nine shots to go along with five turnovers in 33 minutes of play, the seven-time All-Star was all out of sorts. Picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter, Davis was never able to get into much of a rhythm.
As the Heat brought themselves back in the series at 2-1 with a win, a pivotal Game 4 looms large as the Lakers need their go-to guy to bounce back.
Ahead of this series-altering contest, we have a few questions about Davis that need to be answered.
We've seen the worst of Davis in The Finals
Davis scored 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field with just five rebounds, three assists, two steals and five turnovers in Game 3's loss.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): Fact.
The AD we saw in Games 1 and 2 will be the AD we will see for the remainder of The Finals. He came out flat in Game 3. The entire team came out flat in Game 3. The Lakers let their guard down and made it seem like all they had to do was show up to win, and the Heat made them pay.
That was enough of a wake up call for me to feel as though Davis will be completely locked in for the rest of the series, dominating every minute he's on the floor to assure his team takes home the title. We won't see another transparent, nine-shot game from this all-world talent.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Fact.
Credit the Heat for the way they defended Davis in Game 3 - they were aggressive in fronting him rather than gifting him post-ups and flustered him with well-timed double teams - but Davis should be much better prepared for whatever they throw at him in Game 4. He's too good of a player not to be.
Plus, I trust that Davis won't be in foul trouble again. I think him picking up some early fouls in Game 3 really messed with his rhythm.
Bam Adebayo's potential return bodes trouble for Davis
Adebayo missed Games 2 and 3 with a neck strain. He has been upgraded to "questionable" ahead of Game 4 and is hopeful to play if cleared by the team's medical staff.
As great as Adebayo has been all postseason, he didn't have much of an impact on Davis in Game 1 and if he's not 100% healthy, I'm not sure he'll be able to do much to stop him when he returns either. If Bam is in as much pain as I'd imagine he is, missing consecutive NBA Finals games, Davis will go right at him.
On the defensive end of the floor, AD will probably enjoy Adebayo's return, being able to sit back in the paint and play rim protector. With Miami's other bigs like Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard on the floor, Davis is forced to jump out on the perimeter to contest 3-pointers. I don't want to sell Adebayo short, because if he was fully healthy I think he could have figured out a way to contain Davis throughout the series. But since he won't be 100%, I don't think he's going to cause AD much trouble.
Rafferty: Fiction, which is weird to say considering how important Adebayo is to the Heat on both ends of the court, but I don't think this is as simple as "put Adebayo on Davis and the Heat can win this series."
Like Kyle mentioned, the Heat's offence will look quite different if Adebayo is able to return. Even if Davis continues to guard Jae Crowder, the Heat aren't as perimeter-orientated with Adebayo on the court, which would make it a little easier for Davis to roam. And while the Heat's defence would be significantly better, they're still going to have the issue of matching up with the Lakers, especially when they go big. If Adebayo were to defend Davis, that would put a ton of pressure on the likes of Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler to keep Dwight Howard off the offensive glass.
One option for the Heat would be to go big themselves by playing one of Olynyk and Leonard next to Adebayo, but I don't have much faith that that frontcourt can punish the Lakers enough offensively to make it worthwhile.
Davis' Game 3 will cost him Finals MVP if the Lakers win
Davis and teammate LeBron James have both been great in The Finals, making that Finals MVP vote much harder should the Lakers get the job done. Will one bad game from AD forfeit this hardware to James?
LeBron has been awesome so far in The Finals but I think he actually missed an opportunity to take a step ahead of Davis in the Finals MVP race last game. With the Lakers struggling as a unit and Davis looking particularly checked out, James had a chance to put the team on his back and build a 3-0 lead, giving him a leg up in the race for Finals MVP.
Coming up short in a loss, I think the race for that prestigious award remained the same.
It's clear Davis was the most dominant player on the floor in Games 1 and 2, and even with his lacklustre Game 3 performance, I think he's closer to earning Finals MVP than James is. But this series is far from over and there's at least a few more opportunities for that to change.
I wouldn't be shocked at all if the Lakers win two more games and Davis is the best player on the court, but this is set up perfectly for James to put the Lakers on his back following a scare in Game 3 and close the series out in dominating fashion.
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