The truth is, it still feels weird to talk about basketball again. The last few days have been hectic, emotional, confusing and no doubt other emotions I can’t put into words. Yet, the players came together and decided they were going to entertain us again and believe me when I say I am grateful! NBA Franchises have agreed to three initiatives focused around social justice, civic engagement and voting right as part of the return to play. The suspension, the most recent one – the one made by choice, was rough on players and fans alike. Yet, something positive came from it. Sometimes you need to pause, take action and make demands to see progress.
NBA players did just that and I for one am proud to be a fan!
I’m also excited to be watching basketball again! The Lakers closed out the TrailBlazers in a game the Blazers had no business being in. That is not a knock on the Portland team, but without Damian Lillard, who was the Bubble MVP and their best player, few gave them a chance against the #1 seeded Lakers. Yet, they played well and made a game of it. The Lakers, it was clear, were going to have to earn this W.
In what was kinda a tale of two halves, the Blazers won the first. It’s true that the score was tied at half, but it was the Blazers that were the team in control. They led for most of the first half, albeit by a slim margin, and saw their biggest lead of 8 come in the first 24 minutes. Unfortunately for them, there was another half to play.
In the second half the Blazers never led.
That’s not to say it was a Lakers blowout, it wasn’t. Given the state of the Blazers one could argue that it should have been. But, these Blazers played with heart. The were able to get close in the second half, but they never really threatened the Lakers who held on to win behind big games from their big two. Anthony Davis finished the game with 43 points and 9 rebounds making 4 of 6 from three. LeBron James chipped in with 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He was in double digits in three separate categories! Someone should come up with a catchy, memorable nickname for something like that. A Double-Three? Two-Triples? Twin-Triplets?
Eh, just spitballing, but I’m close to something awesome, I can feel it! 🙂
Now, the Lakers wait to see who they match up against in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. It will be either the Houston Rockets or the Oklahoma City Thunder. Normally, winning a series before your opponent is a good thing. It was time to rest, scout, get healthy and prepare mentally for your next opponent. In this Bubble however it looks like players can go a bit stir-crazy given nothing but time. However, I’m sure the Lakers welcome the time off to allow Dion Waiters (migraine, although he was available tonight but didn’t play) and Rajon Rondo (back spasms) to get healthy.
Nothing but respect to the Portland Trailblazers and C.J. McCollum specifically. He played 46 minutes scoring 36 points in an effort that, in and of itself, would have been extraordinary. But, when you realize he has been playing with an L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced). which is just fancy words for BROKEN FREAKING BACK, you realize how unreal his performance was. Nothing but respect for McCollum putting this undermanned team on his back, his broken back, and giving them a chance to win!
Looking ahead for the Lakers things will get tougher, as they should when you advance. No sense digging too deep into the Rockets or Thunder yet. We will as soon as we know who they will play, but suffice it to say the Lakers are going to have to play very well to beat either team in the Semis. For now though, there is joy in Lakersland – their team advances!
Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!