LeBron James, Lakers Eliminate Blazers from Playoffs as Lillard Sits with InjuryAugust 30, 2020
The Los Angeles Lakers have advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals after a 131-122 win over the Portland Trail Blazers led to a 4-1 first-round series victory Saturday in ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.
LeBron James posted a 36-point triple-double, and Anthony Davis added 43 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers. CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 36 points, and Carmelo Anthony had 27.
The Blazers played without star point guard Damian Lillard, who left the NBA's Disney World campus because of a right knee injury.
Portland fought hard without him and was tied at 100 in the fourth, but the Lakers soon went on a 22-8 run to seal the win.
Both teams were initially scheduled to play Game 5 on Wednesday, but the Milwaukee Bucks' refusal to take the court for Game 5 of their own playoff series versus the Orlando Magic in protest of social injustice and systemic racism eventually led to the NBA's postseason pausing through Friday.
Teams returned to the court Saturday.
Blazers G CJ McCollum: 36 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds
Blazers F Carmelo Anthony: 27 points, 7 rebounds
Blazers C Jusuf Nurkic: 16 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals
Lakers G/F LeBron James: 36 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists
Lakers F/C Anthony Davis: 43 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists
Lakers G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: 14 points, 5 assists, 3 steals
Davis, James Too Strong Down Stretch
Davis and James combined for 79 points, 19 rebounds and 14 assists Saturday, shooting 28-of-37 from the field along the way.
In other words, they managed to score just one fewer point, make one fewer field goal and dish three more assists than the entire Oklahoma City Thunder team combined in their 114-80 defeat to the Houston Rockets earlier in the day.
Davis and James have had to play the parts of superheroes in the past to get the Lakers over the finish line, with the rest of the roster fulfilling various individual roles.
The supporting cast has meshed well with the superstar duo, but at times, scoring is hard to come by.
That was the case Saturday as the rest of the Lakers combined to shoot just 20-of-51 from the field for 52 points. Granted, the rest of the Lakers made strong contributions elsewhere: Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope combined for seven steals, and Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard each had six boards in limited time off the bench.
But on a night where it seemed like the Blazers couldn't miss, the Lakers needed Davis and James to take them to Round 2. They obliged with monster performances.
James scored from everywhere, coasting into the lane for an easy two here:
The seas parted for that bucket, but James absorbed contact and scored anyway for this one:
He also splashed home a 28-foot three-pointer to end the first half:
Davis was too much of a problem down low once again, playing some bully ball here to grab a rebound and score:
He was simply in the right place at the right time for much of the night, like when he found himself in position to convert this Danny Green alley-oop pass for two:
In the end, Davis and James' performance helped the Lakers earn their first playoff series win since 2012.
Portland Fights Valiantly in Defeat Without Lillard
No player performed better than Damian Lillard during the NBA's seeding games on the Disney World campus, and he was recognized as such with the MVP award for that stretch of matchups.
The Blazers came into the playoffs on a massive wave of momentum after winning seven of their nine Disney games just to get to the postseason, and they dominated the Lakers in Game 1 of the playoffs.
But all the momentum soon evaporated as L.A.'s star power took over, leading to three series wins. To make matters worse, Lillard unfortunately suffered a right knee injury in Game 4 that forced him to leave Florida and seek further evaluation and treatment.
The odds were heavily stacked against the Blazers leading into Game 5, but that's what made their performance Saturday so remarkable. They embodied the resilient spirit shown many times during the Lillard era despite their leader being off the floor.
CJ McCollum (who had 21 points in one 20-minute stretch) led that effort, knocking home this three off a silky-smooth step-back to give himself space:
McCollum led the Blazers with 36 points despite playing with a back fracture in the bubble that will force him to rest for six to eight weeks, per his postgame comments (h/t Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports Northwest).
Anfernee Simons channeled Lillard's three-point prowess by hitting this bucket before the first quarter ended:
Anthony, a 17-year veteran, turned back the clock time and again in this game:
And Jusuf Nurkic did a little of everything once again. On this occasion below, he helped kick-start a fourth-quarter rally that eventually led to the game being tied at 100:
The Blazers couldn't finish the job as Davis and James were simply too tough to overcome down the stretch, but Portland can still hold its head high as one of the game's most entertaining and inspiring teams.
The Lakers will now wait to see whether they face the Oklahoma City Thunder or Houston Rockets in their Western Conference Semifinal showdown.
The Rockets are leading the Thunder three games to two, with Game 6 scheduled for Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET.