The Lakers get a chance to win a playoff series tonight for the first time in eight years, and they’ll be heavily favored to do so against a Trail Blazers team already overmatched and now without Damian Lillard.
The 2012 Lakers team that last won a postseason series was also up 3-1 in the first round, but they took their foot off the gas and lost games five and six before closing out the Nuggets in seven. That’s a fate the 2020 Lakers should prefer to avoid.
Fortunately, the Lakers appear to recognize the value of snuffing out Portland’s hopes immediately, and not letting the Blazers develop any rhythm without Lillard to stretch this series any longer than it needs to go. And frankly, with all due respect to Portland, five games is enough.
Anthony Davis has been dominant so far, the best player in the series despite his sudden lapse in free-throw shooting. He’s averaging 26.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and a surprising 4.3 assists per game, and the Lakers have outscored the Blazers by 64 in his minutes over the four games. Presuming that Davis is ready to go after tweaking his back in Game 4, there’s really no way Portland can stop L.A.
Defense hasn’t even been the biggest problem for the Blazers in this matchup. They had the best offense in the bubble during the seeding games, but have morphed into the worst during the playoffs. They haven’t been able to score at a reasonable rate against the Lakers defense, and that’s only going become a more herculean task without Lillard, who has been ruled out of the rest of the series with a knee injury. Even with Lillard at the start of Game 4, Portland fell behind 15-0 to start and never got back within single digits.
The players on both teams obviously have much more on their minds than just basketball, having stopped the playoffs three days ago in the interest of social change. The Lakers’ first chance at closing out the Blazers never even happened. For a moment, an abrupt end to the season seemed possible, and members of the Lakers were reportedly on board with that outcome.
Now the players have worked with league leadership to further engage with justice initiatives, and the Lakers seem recommitted to the basketball side. They still have the appropriate perspective about where the game ranks relative to societal issues, but as Frank Vogel said earlier this week, they can pursue both aims together.
“I think it’s okay for all of us in here in the NBA bubble to have that mindset, to try to align our goals and compete to advance so that we can grow our platform to help effect change,” Vogel said.
When the Lakers and the Blazers arrived in the bubble, L.A. had a goal of winning a title while Portland was looking to make the playoffs. The Blazers accomplished their basketball objective, and now it’s time for the Lakers to take the next step in theirs.
Notes and Updates
- The injury reports are pretty much the same as last game heading into this one.
Here is the injury report for tonight. Rajon Rondo is evidently still dealing with back spasms, and questionable to make his debut. pic.twitter.com/b2mvZ6emyj— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) August 29, 2020
- Danny Green was the first Laker to speak to the media since the unexpected playoff stoppage, and he said fans shouldn’t believe everything they heard about the meetings.
Game 5 will begin at 6:00 p.m. PT. The game will be televised nationally on TNT, and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.