It’s hard to win back-to-back titles in the NBA; so much has to go your way, including staying healthy. Last season, LeBron James and Anthony Davis were healthy, which led to an NBA title for the Los Angeles Lakers. This season, both Davis and James miss extended time due to injuries, and both Davis and James were not completely healthy in the playoffs.
James battled an ankle injury, while Davis battled a groin injury that occurred in Game 4, which forced him to miss Game 5 and led to him leaving in early in the first quarter and not coming back after trying to give it a go in Game 6 on Wednesday night.
All that aside, this game was about the greatness of Devin Booker, who scored 22 of his playoff career-high 47 points in the first quarter as the Suns defeated the Lakers 113-100 at Staples Center.
Phoenix led by as many as 22 points in the first quarter and by as many as 29 points in the game.
The Suns, who won the series 4-2 to capture their first playoff series victory in 11 years, move on to the Western Conference semifinals to battle the Denver Nuggets, while the defending- champion Lakers go home.
Booker, who’s making his playoff debut after missing the postseason in the first four years of his career, shot 8-10 from the field in the first quarter and was 6/6 from three-point range(six threes is his regular-season career-high). He finished the game shooting 15/22 from the field and made a career-high eight threes.
Booker was ready for this game, which he discussed after the victory.
“I was just locked in, to be completely honest with you,” Booker said. “I had a tough time taking my pregame nap, all out of excitement. We treated this game like a Game 7. We were stressing since we won the last game that we wanted to end it here on their home court.”
Booker is a huge fan of Laker great, the late Kobe Bryant, and he brought that “Mamba Mentality” in Game 6. Bryant once gave Booker a pair of his sneakers and wrote ‘Be Legendary’ on them. Booker would later get that phrase tattooed on him. The two-time All-Star felt Bryant’s presence when he saw Kobe’s 8 and 24 resting in the rafters at Staples Center, which he discussed post-game.
“Honestly, I was thinking about Kobe and the conversations that we had, kind of about what we just went through, the postseason and being legendary and taking the steps to get there,” Booker said. “So, seeing that 8 and that 24 up there, with the way that the lighting at Staples has right here, it feels like it’s shining down on you.”
Booker has star potential and talent, and now the world gets the see how good of a player he is and can be on the playoff stage.
James, who led the Lakers with 29 points on Thursday night, lost for the first time in the first round of the playoffs. Coming into this series, James was 14-0.
Chris Paul, who appeared to hurt his shoulder again in the first quarter, but would return, finished the game with eight points and 12 assists.
The Cleveland Cavaliers(17-28) had the first half they desired on Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers(29-17). They played good defense, holding the Lakers to 44 points, and they shared the ball, 15 assists on 20 field goals. Cleveland led by seven points at halftime, but the second half was a much different story especially the third quarter.
In that third quarter, Cleveland shot 14% from the field, including 0/9 from three-point range, and scored only 10 points. Conversely, the Lakers shot 57% from the field and outscored Cleveland by 18 points in the quarter. Ultimately, Los Angeles would outscore Cleveland by 21 points in the second half and defeat the Cavaliers 100-86 at Staples Center.
The Lakers, who snapped their four-game losing streak on Friday night, were without LeBron James(ankle) and Anthony Davis(calf), but Montrezl Harrell stepped up and had a game-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Cleveland, who was without their leading scorer, Collin Sexton(hamstring), was led by Larry Nance Jr., who had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The third quarter killed the Cavaliers, but according to their head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the team got good looks. However, they could not make shots.
“We missed shots,” Bickerstaff said. “I thought we did a good job of moving the ball. You go back in look at how we created shots for one another; we just didn’t make them.”
Nance Jr. added: “We got good looks; we took good shots. We just didn’t make them.”
Cleveland also finished the game with 21 turnovers, which led to 21 points for the Lakers.
“We turned it over too much in the first half,” Bickerstaff said. “But in the second half, we turned it over more at the top of the floor, which gave them opportunities to get out in transition. We just have to be more sure with the ball.”
Tough loss for the Cavs when you consider the start they had, but it’s challenging to win the NBA when you don’t make shots and turn the ball over at a high rate.
Cleveland gets back at it on Saturday night against the Sacramento Kings, who beat the Cavaliers 119-105 last Monday night in Cleveland. The Cavaliers finish their four-game road trip on Monday in Utah against the Jazz.
On Friday, the Cavs announced that they have agreed on a buyout with Andre Drummond, who now will become a free agent. Drummond has not played since February 12 after he and the team agreed to have him sit until they can either trade or buy out the two-tIme All-Star.
The 27-year-old Drummond was acquired by the Cavaliers in a trade with Detroit last season on February 6, 2020. In 33 games (all starts) with Cleveland, he averaged 17.5 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks in 28.7 minutes per contest.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed guard Quinn Cook to a 10-day contract, the team announced on Friday.
On Thursday, Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff discussed how Cook can help the team.
“One, is experience. Obviously, he has the ability and has played in big moments,” Bickerstaff said. “Two, I think he’s a veteran player who could help our young guards understand and grow as well, and three, he has the ability to score the basketball at a high clip, so I think he gives you another guy who can play make, another guy who can create, not only for himself, but for others on the court, and he brings a ton of intangibles off the court.”
Cook, 27, appeared in 16 games for the Los Angeles Lakers this season before being waived on February 24. A two-time NBA champion (2018, 2020), Cook has played in 181 career regular season games (29 starts) over five NBA seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, Golden State Warriors and Lakers, holding averages of 6.4 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 14.1 minutes. He has also appeared in 40 postseason games, including six contests in last year’s title run with the Lakers.
Additionally, the six-year veteran was a member of Cleveland’s 2015 Training Camp roster and spent nearly two seasons with the Canton Charge (2015-16, 2016-17), the Cavaliers’ exclusively owned and operated NBA G League team. With the Charge, he was a two-time All-Star (2016, 2017) and the G League’s Rookie of the Year (2016).
Plenty of history was made on Wednesday night in San Antonio. Some we expected and some that was a surprise. First, LeBron James, on his 36th birthday, became the first player in NBA history to have one-thousand straight game in double figures. Next, after Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in the second quarter, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon became the first woman in NBA history to serve as head coach.
Ultimately, behind James’ team-high 26 points, the Lakers would defeat San Antonio 121-107 at AT&T Center.
Michael Jordan previously held the record with 866 straight games in double-figures, but James would surpass that mark in 2018.
After the game, James reflected on one-thousand straight games of 10 points or more.
“I just go out and try to prepare to be the best every night I step out on the floor,” James said about one-thousand straight games in double-figures. “If I’m in uniform, I gotta do things to help our team win. If that’s scoring, rebounding, defending, assisting. Doing the little things, and just be available for my teammates throughout the course of the game when I’m on the floor or when I’m also on the bench.”
This is James’ 17th season in the NBA, so first, you need longevity to pull this type of streak off, and next, you have to have consistency, which means this record will be tough to break.
It’s not easy to score a basket in the NBA, and scoring in double-figures is even harder, but as he continues, James is making many things in the NBA look easy.
At 36, James is still playing at an elite level, and the way the world-champion Lakers are presently constructed, this team could make another deep playoff run this season. James shows no signs of slowing down, and he appears to be a guy who could play at a high level for years to come. Expect James to achieve more milestones and do more amazing things moving forward.
At this point, it’s clear, we are all witnesses to greatness.
Playing good defense in the NBA requires players to contest shots and try to stay in front of the offensive player, and at the end, grabbing the rebound on a missed shot.
On Christmas day against the Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks may have done some of that, but they did not do the rebounding part. Dallas allowed the Lakers to have 35 second-chance points to the Mavericks zero. Ultimately, the world-champion Los Angeles(1-1) would rout Dallas(0-2) 138-115 at Staples Center on Friday night.
Mavericks-Lakers was the marquee matchup on Christmas day in the NBA. LeBron James against Luka Doncic. James would finish 22 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds, while Doncic poured in 27 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds, but unfortunately for Dallas, LeBron had more help. Anthony Davis led all scorers with 28 points, and Montrezl Harrell chipped in 22 points off the bench.
According to Doncic, the Mavericks’ inability to rebound cost them this game.
“I’m not surprised we lost,” he said. “You can’t win a game when second-chance points is 35 to zero. It’s as simple as that. We box out, we win the game. It’s that simple. I think we did some great stuff on defense, but at the end, you have to finish with the boxing out, and that’s what we gotta work on…
“I think it’s everything about mentality and toughness. It’s gotta be mental. If somebody is rebounding like that, you just have to box them out no matter what. Somebody else is going to get the rebound. Like I said, we have to work on it, and we just gotta get better.”
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle added: “A team has given up 35 points second chance and had gotten zero. It’s obviously the story of the game.”
At this point, Dallas is missing what Kristaps Porzingis brings to the table. They miss his scoring(20.4 ppg last season) and his ability to rebound(9.5 rpg). Porzingis is expected to return sometime in January after he needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus back in October.
You’re not going to win in the NBA when you get beat that bad on the glass. The Lakers out-hustled and dominated Dallas on Friday night. After two games, the Mavericks remain winless as they get ready to battle the Clippers on Sunday, which will be another challenging game. Dallas has to find a way to bring more energy and effort against the Clippers if they want to get their first win of the season.
The first two games have been a disappointment, but fortunately for Dallas, there is a lot of basketball left in the season.
Damian Lillard continues to dominate in Orlando. After being named the MVP of the NBA bubble on Saturday, Lillard put on a show against the Lakers on Tuesday night.
Lillard had 34 points, including 6-13 from downtown and 10/10 from the free-throw line, five rebounds, and five assists, as the eighth-seeded Blazers defeated the number one seed, the Lakers, 100-93 to take 1-0 lead in their best of seven first-round series.
Dame was incredible, and after the game, Twitter reacted.
Here’s a sampling:
Damn @Dame_Lillard. This brother just pulled up from the parking lot. Damn!!!
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) August 19, 2020
— goforitradio (@goforitgant) August 19, 2020
Man @Dame_Lillard is just different!
— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) August 19, 2020
go dumb @Dame_Lillard ! he different
— Jordan Clarkson (@JordanClarksons) August 19, 2020
After a long strange drought, Damian Lillard finally snapped out of it in a 4th q and made bombs with 7:37 left then 5:46 (to tie) then 3:13 (to tie). Didn’t bring it all the way home the way Jamal Murray did a day ago. But way better than 0 baskets in his last 20 mins of 4th qs
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) August 19, 2020
Lord, do I love watching @Dame_Lillard play basketball.
— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) August 19, 2020
DAMIAN LILLARD MUST BE STOPPED!!!!!!! My GAWD!!!!
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) August 19, 2020
— David Spade (@DavidSpade) August 19, 2020
Man Dame Lillard has been the most entertaining athlete in any bubble period.
— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) August 19, 2020
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Lakers G Avery Bradley will not join the team in Orlando.
According to Wojnarowski, one of Bradley’s three children has a history of struggling to recover from respiratory illnesses and would’ve been unlikely to be medically cleared to enter the NBA bubble with his family, which was a huge reason Bradley decided to opt-out.
Bradley told Wojnarowski the following on Tuesday:
“As committed to my Lakers teammates and the organization as I am, I ultimately play basketball for my family. And so, at a time like this, I can’t imagine making any decision that might put my family’s health and well-being at even the slightest risk.”
Bradley, along with Kyrie Irving, were leaders of a players coalition who talked about possibly not coming to Orlando for the NBA restart.
With Bradley out of the mix, the Lakers are said to be interested in free agent J.R. Smith, according to Wojnarowski. Smith would be reunited with LeBron James. The two won a title together with the Cavaliers in 2016.
The 29-year-old Bradley is a significant loss for the Lakers. Bradley is a solid defender and was a starter for Los Angles. In 49 games(44 starts), Bradley averaged 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists a contest.
Obviously, with COVID-19 out there, players will have to weigh the costs of playing in Orlando. It should be interesting to see who else will opt-out. Players have until June 24 to inform the NBA of their decision.