LOS ANGELES -- Maybe Anthony Davis should play with a sore shooting shoulder more often.
With his right shoulder wrapped in tape, the Los Angeles Lakers' newest star big man had a breakout performance with 40 points and 20 rebounds in a 120-91 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday at Staples Center.
L.A. trailed Memphis by 13 in the first quarter but Davis took control in the third, single-handedly matching the Grizzlies in scoring, 20-20.
Davis' 26 made free throws were tied for the fourth most in a game in league history, and he became the fourth player -- along with Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Adrian Dantley -- to make more than 25 free throws in a game.
"I don't even think he's scratched the surface yet," teammate LeBron James said.
The performance nearly didn't happen. Davis jammed his shoulder during a failed dunk attempt late in the Lakers' win over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday. A league source told ESPN that Davis experienced tightness in the days that followed but was cleared by the Lakers' medical staff to play.
Some mystery surrounded his status, though. After the Charlotte game, Davis said there was "nothing wrong" with his shoulder. That was the last time he spoke to reporters until after the Memphis game, breaking league media access rules by declining to speak at both the shootaround and pregame availability windows Tuesday.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Davis worked out on the court before tipoff, testing to see if he would play.
"I thought all night that there was a chance that we could have to play the game without him, so we were prepared to do so," Vogel said, though Davis' shoulder issue was never listed on the team's official injury report.
It made Davis' dominant night all the more impressive.
Davis went 18-for-18 from the line in the third, setting an NBA record for most free throws made in a quarter, when the Lakers outscored the Grizzlies by 19.
"There is a lot of questionable things, but we're going to leave that to other people," Memphis center Jonas Valanciunas said when asked about Davis' parade to the line. "We've just got to play better."
Davis' tremendous effort in the third was preceded by a tenuous moment in the second when he retreated to the locker room to have his shoulder retaped.
"I was really just trying to figure it all out," Davis said. "It was bothering me a lot. It was very sore, but I didn't want to come out of the game. I just came to the back and adjust some things. Felt good to go back out, and I went back out late in the second, felt good, did some more stuff at halftime. Went out in the third. We wanted to actually just test it out in the third, and it felt good. That was that."
Davis missed an average of 17 games a season in his first four years in the league, causing him to develop a reputation for being injury prone. Even though he then played 75 games in back-to-back seasons but saw his 2018-19 campaign cut short because of his failed trade request, Davis said he was aware of the injury perception. He's hoping to change it.
"Obviously I have a list of [injuries] and I just try to play, fight through them and do what I've got to do to help the team," Davis said. "I'm here to be one of the leaders of the team, and it's tough for me to do that on the sideline."
On Tuesday, Davis also had two blocks and two assists in 31 minutes, sitting the entire fourth quarter when James, also on the bench by then, led the Staples Center crowd in a "Taco Tuesday!" chant.
"It's going to be a long season, tough process, to do what we want to do," said Davis, who, like James, was displaced from his home early Monday morning because of the Getty fire. "You've got to have fun with it. That's the only way to get through it."
Davis became the first Laker with a 40-point, 20-rebound game since Shaquille O'Neal in 2003. And he registered the 40-20 with the least playing time since minutes started being tracked during the 1951-52 season, edging Elgin Baylor (33 minutes during the 1960-61 season) and Joel Embiid (34 minutes in 2018-19).
Davis also joined O'Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the third Lakers player with 100 points, 10 blocks and 10 assists through his first four games with the franchise (since blocks became an official statistic in 1973-74).
"It's an honor. Great company," Davis said after joining O'Neal, Abdul-Jabbar, Baylor, Chamberlain and George Mikan as the only Lakers to ever notch a 40-20 game. "To be here, part of this franchise, and do something special like that and be on that list with those legends means a lot to me. But what's more important, I'm happy that we got the win. It was a grind in that first half and my teammates trusted me and told me to get going. That's what I tried to do."
The Lakers are 3-1 for their best start to a season since beginning 8-0 in 2010-11.
"He's been doing everything he can to get ready for tonight, and he did that, and obviously nowhere near 100 percent," James said of Davis. "You have a performance like that, it's pretty cool."