LeBron, Davis flex muscles as NBA playoff drought ends – Lakers season review in Stats Perform data

By Sports Desk November 01, 2020

After years of waiting and the loss of their favourite son in January, the Los Angeles Lakers finally returned to the summit of NBA basketball.

All eyes were on LeBron James and the Lakers in 2019-20 – the superstar veteran coming off a difficult first season in Los Angeles.

The Lakers also mourned the tragic death of five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant following a helicopter crash at the start of the year.

Add in a lengthy playoff drought, the coronavirus pandemic and Orlando bubble, and the Lakers' championship quest was far from easy.

However, the Western Conference top seeds – led by James and Anthony Davis – defied the ominous challenges to win their first title since 2010, seeing off the Miami Heat in six games at Walt Disney World Resort.

As the Lakers reflect on their memorable 17th championship to equal the Boston Celtics' all-time record, we review the team's 2019-20 campaign using Stats Perform data.


Equal longest drought snapped

The Lakers had missed the playoffs for six successive seasons prior to reigning supreme this campaign.

Not since 2013, when the Lakers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, had Los Angeles featured in the playoffs.

But the Lakers' success – behind James' 11th Finals triple-double in Game 6 – tied the longest postseason drought in NBA history that a team ended by winning the title, matching the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers.

LeBron and Davis make history

So much was expected of the Lakers duo when Davis finally swapped the New Orleans Pelicans for LA in a blockbuster trade at the start of the season.

James was desperate to team up with a genuine superstar at Staples Center after a forgettable first term in Los Angeles, where the former was hampered by form and fitness issues as Luke Walton departed following another season without a playoff appearance.

Davis' arrival and the appointment of Frank Vogel helped put the Lakers on track for silverware as city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers countered with their own superstar duo – Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

All-Star Davis and James became the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to each have 500-plus points and 200-plus rebounds in the same postseason.

James also became the first player in NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL history to win the Finals MVP award for three different teams, having also been crowned Most Valuable Player with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Heat, as he celebrated a fourth championship.

The Lakers also have history with ageing stars leading them to championships. The three oldest players ever to win the Finals MVP all did so while playing for the famed franchise – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38 years and 54 days) in 1985, James (35 years and 286 days) and Wilt Chamberlain (35 years and 260 days) in 1972.


Unheralded pair shine

With all the spotlight on James and Davis, Lakers team-mates Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee made significant contributions at centre, especially in the regular season.

Howard and McGee became the first pair of NBA team-mates to each have 75-plus blocks while shooting 60.0-plus per cent from the field in the same regular season since blocks became an official stat in 1973-74.

The return of 2004 number one pick Howard after a disappointing first spell in Los Angeles in 2012-13 proved a shrewd piece of business.


Lakers plagued by three-point issues

There was so much good about the Lakers in 2019-20, but their shooting from beyond the arc remains a problem.

The Lakers have shot under 35.0 per cent from three-point range in the regular season in each of the last six seasons, the longest active streak in the NBA.

That is also the longest streak for the Lakers since they shot under 35.0 per cent in seven consecutive seasons from 1979-80 to 1985-86, which was the first seven campaigns the three-point line was in existence.

The Lakers became the first team to with the title despite shooting a lower percentage from three-point range than their opponents in the playoffs since the 2000 LA team.

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