SAN FRANCISCO — Anthony Davis cleaned up a LeBron James miss for the first score of the game. James got his first bucket to go — plus an and-1 free throw — a few minutes later to put the Los Angeles Lakers up 11-0 over the Golden State Warriors, and L.A. rolled to a 123-101 victory in its preseason opener Saturday.
Yes, there was a lot to like from the Lakers’ dynamic duo in their first taste of action together since L.A. acquired Davis, the six-time All-Star, in a blockbuster offseason trade in June.
“AD’s AD,” James said. “I thought he was great from the beginning of the game, just his offset on the offensive end just to be able to get us extra possessions with rebounding. Knocking down shots. I think he had like five dunks in the first half. And communication on the defensive end. He’s a very cerebral player. It was a good start for him.”
Said Davis: “We’re just trying to help each other out. The more we can do that, the easier the game is going to be for us and our teammates. Anytime we have an opportunity to learn, it’s good for us.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel rested the pair the entire second half, but the two did plenty of damage before the break. Davis finished with 22 points on 9-for-16 shooting, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. James had 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting, 8 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal.
“He’s a monster,” Vogel said when asked about Davis. “It’s going to be very difficult to slow him down with what we had around him. I’m excited about what he’s going to do, and Lakers fan should be, too.”
In 18 minutes played apiece, James was a plus-14 and Anthony was a plus-13.
For James, who had the longest layoff of his career between games this past summer since his second season in the league — the previous time he missed the postseason — it was more than just any other exhibition game.
“I had some jitters tonight,” he said. “I had some butterflies in my stomach, and also just straight-up excitement. And also a little bit of nervousness, too, because I got hurt in the Bay [Area] when I was at full strength. So it’s great to get back out there and have a lot fun. I didn’t even think about it being a preseason game. I thought about it being a game and how we can get better. I didn’t want to take it lightly because it was a preseason game. I think none of us did. We got better today.”
James and Davis looked so good together early on that Magic Johnson, who shocked the Lakers organization by resigning from his executive post in April, chimed in on Twitter to praise what he was witnessing.
Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, out with a stress reaction in his left foot, also took to Twitter to show his appreciation for Davis.
L.A. led by 13 after the first quarter, with Davis nearly matching the Warriors’ output himself: He went 7-for-11 for 17 points while the entire Golden State team was 9-for-27 for 20 points.
“It’s different seeing all those big guys on the floor at the same time,” Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell said. “LeBron playing point alongside those dudes. It’s cool. It looks like a fantasy team or something.”
Davis had one 43-second stretch midway through the first that was so dominant, he scored on dunks on three consecutive possessions: the first following an offensive rebound, the next rolling to the rim off a pocket pass from James, and finally, by throwing down an alley-oop feed from Rajon Rondo to punctuate the flourish.
“I was just trying to attack the offensive glass and be aggressive and get myself going,” Davis said. “I haven’t played in a while, so I was just trying to do all the little things, and the ball ended up in my hands, so I just went up and dunked it and get myself going.”
Vogel started Avery Bradley, Danny Green and JaVale McGee alongside James and Davis, vowing to continue to shuffle the first unit in L.A.’s five remaining preseason games.
“We’re going to mix it up every night throughout the preseason and potentially into the season,” Vogel said before the game. “The guys are going to have opportunities to start just to see different [combinations]. The preseason is just about combinations.”
It was a pretty potent one-two combo between James and Davis on Saturday, to say the least.
“I think it’s never easy to build, but it’s been very good because of the relationship we had before we were teammates,” James said. “We’re able to be straightforward with one another, not sugarcoat anything and not take anything personal. Being able to take criticism. [Davis] gets in my ear, I get in his ear, but it’s all for the betterment of each other, to get each other better and challenge each other, which will ultimately be better for the team.”