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LeBron James’ monster game powers Lakers past Trail Blazers for 2-1 series lead

The Lakers' LeBron James, right, reacts after a dunk by teammate Anthony Davis, left, on Aug. 22, 2020.
The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) reacts after a dunk by Anthony Davis during the second half Saturday night. James had 38 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
(Kim Klement / Pool photo via Associated Press)

After a first half in which LeBron James bullied his way into the paint and kept the Lakers afloat through their collective free-throw struggles, Anthony Davis wanted to give his teammate a break.

“I told ‘Bron at the half, I wanted to take some of the pressure off of him,” Davis said. “Only three shot attempts in the first half and I missed a ton of free throws, but I didn’t want him to just carry the team the entire time. I wanted to take some pressure off of him. You’ve got guys trying to get into him and make it tough for him. Picking him up [on defense for the court’s entire] 94 feet. Just trying to take some pressure off.”

Davis stayed true to his word. He countered James’ 22-point first half with a 23-point second half, and the Lakers’ two superstars led their team to a 116-108 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night in Game 3, taking a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series behind near triple-doubles from both James and Davis.

James finished with 38 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

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“I just wanted to try to be aggressive and see if I can get into the paint, see if I can find my guys, and I was able to do that early,” James said. “Get to the line, even though I missed a few of them early on, but I feel like I had a good rhythm and just tried to make plays for myself and for my teammates.”

With the win, James passed former San Antonio star Tim Duncan for second in career playoff victories with 158.

Davis also neared a triple-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. He made 10 of 15 shots in the second half to help the top-seeded Lakers pull away.

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The Lakers, who have back-to-back victories after dropping Game 1, also got double-digit scoring from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso, who singlehandedly outscored the Trail Blazers’ bench, which managed only eight points.

The Lakers again held the Trail Blazers’ dangerous offense to well below their average in the NBA bubble, despite a big night by their talented backcourt. Damian Lillard finished with 34 points, while CJ McCollum added 28.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel was asked whether Portland seemed fatigued after playing so many minutes in the seeding games as the Trail Blazers tried to make the playoffs as the eighth seed.

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“I didn’t feel like Dame and CJ looked fatigued,” Vogel said. “I think those guys are still playing at a super-high level, extremely difficult to guard. We’re not gonna be comfortable with whatever that may look like on the outside. We know what they’re capable of.”

Lillard was hampered a bit. He had the first two fingers on his left hand wrapped after dislocating his index finger during Thursday’s game. He never considered missing Saturday’s game because of the injury but didn’t do any on-court work between games. At one point in the first quarter, Caldwell-Pope landed on Lillard, causing the Portland star to gingerly hold his fingers.

But if the injury bothered him otherwise, it didn’t show. In the first quarter, Lillard scored 14 points on four-for-seven shooting while making three three-pointers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 35 points as Milwaukee beat Orlando for a 2-1 series lead, while Oklahoma City defeated Houston in overtime.

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In the third quarter, the Lakers began to pull away. They built a lead of 12 but still had trouble putting Portland away until late in the fourth.

“We want to try to tempo the game, and it takes a lot of commitment to pick these guards up at halfcourt, where their range begins, and still ask them to run the floor,” Vogel said.

“Our guys are working extremely hard for these victories.”


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