Lakers Close the Deal; Will Face the Rockets in Semi-Finals

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Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Anthony Davis (3) looks for an open Laker while being guarded by two Blazers.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL– The Lakers were able to close the deal with a 131-122 win over the Portland Blazers, as they won their first playoff series since 2012. Despite missing their star Damian Lillard, the Blazers gave the Lakers everything they could handle. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough as Anthony Davis exploded for 43 points to go along with 36 points from LeBron James.

Despite winning this game by 11, the Lakers found themselves in a tight battle in the first half. Portland was leading through most of the first quarter. C.J. McCollum knocked down 11 points for Portland, but LeBron & AD combined for 22 points to give the Lakers a 35-31 lead at the end of the first quarter. It was impressive to see Portland start the way they did without their leader Damian Lillard. Their competitiveness would carry into the 2nd quarter.

The second quarter saw Portland take command the majority of the quarter. McCollum added 10 more points and was supplemented by Carmelo Anthony’s 14 2nd quarter points. Portland shot 53% from the field in the second quarter, very impressive for a team without their best shooter. LeBron tallied 12 points in just six minutes during the second quarter, and it was enough to tie the game 68-68 at halftime.

The third quarter was the Lakers’ quarter, specifically Davis’ quarter. AD scored 20 of his 43 points in the third quarter and the Lakers led by as many as 14. After shooting very well in the first half (53% field goal percentage), the Blazers found themselves struggling in the third quarter and only shot 38%. McCollum was still able to produce 11 points, but Portland found themselves trailing 92-100 entering the 4th quarter.

Anthony Davis (3) pulls up for the contested jumper ( Jim Poorten/NBAE)

After Portland was able to briefly tie the game at 100 in the 4th quarter, Los Angeles ran away with the rest of the game. LeBron & AD combined for 20 4th quarter points and gave the Lakers a lead as large as 15. Shooting 57% from the field in the 4th quarter, the Lakers were able to put this game & series away with a 131-122 win. Just days after it looked like LA might boycott the rest of the season, Los Angeles is on their way to the Western Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2012.

The Lakers have to feel good about the way they handled this series. Coming into this series, no team in the NBA was hotter than the Portland Trail Blazers. While they were seeded as the 8th seed, one could make the argument their talent was more on par with a 4-seed. They were shooting the ball fantastically and that was something the Lakers struggled to defend all season.

LeBron & Carmelo exchange hugs and remark on their historic careers (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

After a shaky Game 1, LA responded like a championship contender and ripped off 4 straight wins. They were able to contain Lillard and force Portland to take hard shots. Offensively, they enjoyed plenty of scoring from LeBron & AD. The Lakers’ bench even played well with strong showings from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Javale McGee, and Kyle Kuzma. If there was any doubt if LA was really a final contender, that doubt has since been erased. The Lakers are here to play.

What’s next? The Lakers get a couple of days of rest before they’re set to tip off the Western Conference Semifinals. Their opponent? That has yet been decided, but they’ll play either the Houston Rockets or Oklahoma City Thunder.