The Lakers deserved all the criticism they got after dropping their first game of the NBA playoffs against the Trail Blazers. But the praise for them has to be as loud as the disrespect was now, too, as LeBron James, Anthony Davis and their supporting cast have officially retaken control of this series with an imperfect but still imposing 116-108 win over Portland on Saturday night.
James was good in Game 1, but he truly forced the issue on offense in this one in the best possible way, both as a scorer and facilitator. Gary Trent Jr. played admirable defense on him at times, but James still pretty much got whatever he wanted while getting to the basket, carving up Portland’s interior with buckets, well-timed lob passes and the lasers to corner 3-point shooters he’s practically patented at this point. He ended the night with a near triple-double of 38 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists.
Davis had a rough game offensively to start — scoring just 6 points in the first half — but in the second half he remembered that the Blazers can’t guard him and promptly caught fire. At one point in the fourth quarter, he drained three straight mid-range jumpers and followed it up by drawing a foul on Jusuf Nurkic on a fourth. It bought the Lakers critical time with James on the bench resting, and allowed Davis to clean up his stat line and end the night with 29 points, 8 assists and 11 rebounds.
They and the role players — outside of a couple of lethargic transition possessions in the fourth quarter where both teams looked gassed — kept up the good defensive effort in this one. Alex Caruso was stifling. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope continued his strong effort on that end, and was a key in the third quarter to help the Lakers extend their halftime lead, hitting three after three in the period before ending the game with 13 points. Danny Green even got a huge block on a three late in the game, and also finally shot well in the bubble, knocking down 2-4 threes to finish with 8 points. The Lakers will still need him to play better, but this game was a start.
The Lakers now have a 2-1 series lead, and they will face the Blazers for the fourth time this week on Monday, Aug. 24, when the Lakers will reportedly debut their new Kobe Bryant-themed jerseys for Mamba Day. As long as they keep up the incredible level of defense they’ve been bringing (again, outside of a few lapses here and there) they look to be in good shape to wrap this thing up shortly after that.