LeBron James, Lakers Take 2-1 Series Lead with Game 3 Win vs. Lillard, Blazers

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 23, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after scoring against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
Kim Klement/Associated Press

Things are looking up for the Los Angeles Lakers, who took control of their Western Conference playoff series Saturday night with a 116-108 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3.

The Lakers came out of the gate flat with just 93 points in their Game 1 loss. Game 2 was a return to form for the Western Conference's top seed with a 111-88 win, even though LeBron James scored just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

The Blazers have been in fourth gear since the season restart just to get into the playoffs. Their 88 points Thursday marked their lowest total of the 2019-20 season. Damian Lillard suffered a dislocated left index finger in that contest but played Saturday night.

The Lakers started slowly, trailing 57-53 at halftime, and missed 15 free throws on 43 attempts. They were still able to win fairly comfortably thanks to the defense holding Portland to 41.1 percent shooting.

Notable Player Stats

  • LeBron James: 38 points (11-18 FG), 12 rebounds, 8 assists
  • Anthony Davis: 29 points (11-18 FG), 12 rebounds, 8 assists
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: 13 points (3-8 3-PT FG), 3 rebounds
  • Damian Lillard: 34 points (8-20 FG), 7 assists, 5 rebounds
  • CJ McCollum: 28 points (11-24 FG), 8 rebounds, 4 assists
  • Carmelo Anthony: 20 points (9-20 FG), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals

LeBron's Return to Form Lifts Lakers to Victory

Despite posting a triple-double in Game 1, James hasn't looked like his usual dominant self in the early going this postseason. Some of that could be attributed to a groin injury that has been nagging him since the season restarted. 

Saturday night was a return to the James that typically dominates opponents in the playoffs. He was exerting his will against Portland's defense from the jump. 

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The Lakers needed James to play at an MVP level because Anthony Davis only managed six points on 1-of-3 shooting in the first half before turning things on after the break. Davis was able to make an impact in other ways, particularly with his passing and defense. 

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Anthony Davis has a new playoff career high in assists with 7 thus far, at the 3:23 mark of the 3rd Q. Previous was 5 in 2018 vs. GSW.


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One thing that has become apparent through three postseason games is that the Lakers' roster isn't particularly deep. Their two superstars will be the deciding factor in how far they go. 

James has proven throughout his career that he's the ultimate difference-maker. The four-time NBA MVP showed that again in Game 3, and put the Lakers in control of the series. 

Blazers Supporting Cast Comes Up Short

The Blazers are going as far as Lillard and CJ McCollum will take them, but the supporting cast has to provide some help along the way. 

Jusuf Nurkic's return has stabilized the center position, though his stamina isn't where it normally would be as he continues to work his way back from the injury that kept him out for more than one year. Carmelo Anthony's effectiveness as a scorer is offset by his defensive limitations. 

Beyond those four, Portland's roster thins out quickly. Head coach Terry Stotts tried going with two bigs in the starting lineup, pairing Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside to contain the Lakers. Things seemed to be working early, as the Lakers had just 53 points in the first half despite attempting 31 free throws.

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Law Murray 🇦🇶 @LawMurrayTheNU

Lakers are 13/20 FGs in paint, 3/15 FGs out of it Lillard/McCollum are 14/25 FGs (56%), teammates are 6/26 FGs (23.1%)

Lillard and McCollum were able to get their points, but most of their damage was done in the first half. The duo had 39 of Portland's 57 points through two quarters. They only had 23 points after the intermission when things unraveled for the Blazers. 

Portland has shown it's capable of hanging with the Lakers through three games. The team has yet to have that one dominant offensive showing like it did routinely during the seeding games. Even in the Game 1 victory, the Blazers' 100 points was their lowest total up to that point since the restart. 

If the Blazers want to turn this series around, their offense has to score closer to the 126 points they averaged over the final eight games of the regular season. 


What's Next?

Game 4 of the Lakers-Blazers series is set for 9 p.m. ET Monday and will air on TNT.