Lebron James went into attack mode and there was nothing that the Portland Trail Blazers could do to stop him. That means the Trail Blazers may be on their way out of their first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers. James scored 38 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to dominate a Game 3 that could have gone either way should he have remained in facilitator mode.
With the series tied at 1-1, James asserted himself in the second quarter when he scored 15 of the Lakers’ 28 points. Though the Lakers scored the same amount of points as the Trail Blazers did in the period, the pointed effort by James helped his team stay afloat for the first half. The Lakers, shooting 50 percent for the time in the series, outscored the Portland 40-29 in the third quarter on their way to a 116-108 win in Orlando, Florida, under the NBA’s bubble format.
“Every game calls for different, you know…situations,” James said. “Tonight, I just wanted to try to be aggressive, you know, and see if I can get into the paint and see if I can find my guys. And I was able to do that early, get to the line even though I missed a few of them early on. But I felt like I had a really good rhythm and tried to make plays-like I said for myself and for my teammates.”
That stat sheet on James reads like the Lakers superstar had a pretty good night. James made 11 of his 18 shots from the field, including hitting half of his eight attempts from 3-point range. He added in 12 free throws to complete his scoring totals against the Trail Blazers. James finished the game two assists shy (8) from completing a triple-double.
We need him to play like that all the time,” said the Lakers other starting forward Anthony Davis. “It’s tough to stop. It’s fun for us and he stills makes the right plays…when he attacks it’s our job for us to make shots. We’ve got to make shots for him and guys were able to do that tonight.”
With the win, the Lakers now have a 2-1 lead over Portland in the series.
“Guys made shots which opened up the floor for him and myself,” Davis said. “You really can’t help out as much when we’re making shots.”
LeBron James talks about passing Tim Duncan for 2nd all-time in #NBAPlayoffs wins.
— NBA (@NBA) August 23, 2020
As great as James was, the Lakers would not have pulled the victory if he did not have help to back him up. Davis had the same field stat line as James, going 11 for 18 to complete his night at 29 points. The Lakers had four players score in double-figures and had nine of the 10 players that head coach Frank Vogel put in the game place in the scoring column. While James and the Lakers offense shined, it was the team’s defense that factored in big-time for this win.
Despite giving up 34 points to Damian Lillard, the Lakers made the Trail Blazers go-to guy work. Lillard had to shoot the ball 20 times to get those 34 points, making just eight field goals. Carmelo Anthony would fare too much better, connecting on nine of his 20 shots from the field for 20 points. As a team, Portland shot 41 percent from the field. The Trail Blazers, known for their lethal 3-point shooting, was off their game, shooting 34 percent (12 of 35) from long distance.
Lillard has a legitimate excuse for having his off-night: he dislocated his left index finger in Game 2 against the Lakers. Whether or not Lillard’s injury will much impact on the series remains to be seen.
“Obviously, I dislocated it, so it’s going to have on it like ballhandling,” Lillard said during a postgame press conference. “I think tonight the biggest thing I felt was going up to shoot when I was gathering the ball..sometimes subconsciously I would try to like ease up on it, so I would lose the ball a little bit. When I was making moves, in the middle of my dribble, sometimes I would ease up on it because I could feel the pain and I lose the ball a lit bit…kind of stopped me in my tracks. But I did as much treatment as I could and tried to ignore it. But once you decide to step out there, it is what it is. You’ve got to go out there and do what you’ve got to do.”