After three days of no basketball and emotionally charged meetings over whether to continue to play, three days of seeing how everyone in the NBA’s bubble could use their platforms to further their causes for social justice, the Lakers had to collect themselves and play a close-out game that would advance them to the next round of the playoffs.
It took the Lakers having to dig down perhaps more than they thought they would have to because a Portland Trail Blazers team on its last leg and playing without star guard Damian Lillard refused to go away easily.
But LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined to score 79 points to lead the Lakers to a 131-122 win over the Trail Blazers on Saturday night, as Los Angeles won the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round playoff series 4-1 on the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla.
The Lakers advanced to the second round and will meet the winner of the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder series. The Rockets lead that series 3-2.
James had a triple-double with 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Davis had 43 points, nine rebounds and four assists. He was 14 for 18 from the field and four for six from three-point range.
“We got better,” James said during his postgame interview on TNT. “We got better throughout the course of this series. We knew we were coming into a series with a hot Portland team that was playing probably the best basketball inside the bubble along with Phoenix. So we wanted to just wanted to come in and just try to work our game and get better and better as the games went on, as the series went on and I believe we did that.”
The Trail Blazers made the Lakers sweat because they attacked Los Angeles’ defense and didn’t back down in the first half despite being short-handed and playing with only nine players.
Guard CJ McCollum had 21 first-half points and Carmelo Anthony did his thing with 18 points in the first half. He made all three of his three-pointers.
Portland seemingly took what it wanted in the first half, making 53.2% of its field-goal attempts, 66.7% (10 for 14) of its three-point attempts against a non-resistance defense.
The Trail Blazers stayed close despite not having high-scoring guard Lillard (knee) and forwards Zach Collins (ankle) and Wenyen Gabriel (quad).
But Lillard’s backcourt running mate, McCollum, gave the Lakers all they could handle, finishing with 38 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Anthony had 27 points.
James and Davis got some help from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to help pull this game off.
Caldwell-Pope had 14 points, five assists and three steals.