Lakers throttle past Trail Blazers to take 3-1 series lead
ORLANDO, Fla. - A day after Kobe Bryant's birthday, a date that includes both of the numbers he wore, the Los Angeles Lakers honored him by wearing a jersey he helped design and by ruthlessly crushing the spirit of their opponent.
The Portland Trail Blazers never had a chance in this one.
The Lakers won, 135-115, taking a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.
LeBron James scored 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting with 10 assists and six rebounds, making four of five three-pointers. Anthony Davis finished with 18 points with five assists and five rebounds. Battling a stifling defensive effort, Portland guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined to attempt only five three-pointers, making three.
Nods to Bryant were everywhere on Monday. Before the Lakers-Trail Blazers game, Houston Rockets star Russell Westbrook walked into the arena wearing a gold Bryant jersey with purple shoes. His teammate, James Harden, wore a T-shirt honoring Bryant and shorts with "Bryant" written across the front.
Coaches, team staff and many players wore Bryant's shoes. Davis and Rob Pelinka, the Lakers general manager and president of basketball operations, wore the same colorful design with gold accents. Lillard wore shoes with the number 8 on his left heel and the number 24 on his right heel. JR Smith wrote "WWKD" on one shoe and "shoot" on the other.
Davis and James entered the building wearing a version of Bryant's jersey.
It was a Portland home game, but during the first quarter the courtside signage and the placard behind the basket all honored Bryant and his daughter, Gigi, who died with him in the helicopter crash on Jan. 26. It included a white heart with the number "2" inside it, for the number Gigi wore, beside Bryant's initials in purple and gold.
The tributes didn't end with what was planned.
With 4:58 left in the first quarter, the Lakers led 24-8. Their largest lead of the quarter was by 24 points. Davis, who Bryant used to often tell he had the capability to be unstoppable, nearly was during that period, scoring 16 points with three assists, three rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He and James combined for 24 points in that quarter.
As the second quarter neared its close, it became apparent that an 81-point first half was within reach. James hit a three-pointer and two layups in the half's final 1:05 to send the Lakers into halftime up 80-51. He thought he was fouled on his way to the basket for the last one, and a free throw would have allowed the Lakers to reach the point total Bryant scored one night in Los Angeles back in 2006.
Their 80-point half, though, was a feat in itself. It was their highest-scoring half in the playoffs since 1987.
The Lakers were no kinder to Portland in the third quarter. Their lead grew to 38 when James launched a three-pointer from two steps in front of the NBA logo at mid-court _ a range more often associated with Lillard. It's why the Lakers defended Lillard for nearly the entire length of the court and boxed him in each time he touched the ball, holding him to just 11 points on three-of-nine shooting.
Lillard left the game in the third quarter due to a right knee injury, not long after Davis left the game with back spasms. Davis, though, looked peppy on the sideline, still cheering for his team and leaping to their defense when necessary. Lillard, meanwhile, had an MRI during the game.
Half of the fourth quarter served as garbage time. James began to ice his joints midway through the fourth quarter and watched from the bench as his team finished the job he started.