Lakers 135 Blazers 115

The Lakers are up 3-1 in the series, but they aren’t celebrating.

Jim Rome
August 25, 2020 - 9:27 am
LeBron James

USA Today

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Can someone tell me what time Game 4 of the Blazers-Lakers series starts? Because I saw something on TV last night; I just don’t know what it was. I know it what it wasn’t: Game 4 of a playoff series. Not when we’re looking at garbage time in the middle of the second quarter. That was a mugging... The Lakers hit Portland with a 15-0 run to start the game and never looked back.

The very definition of a BOAT RACE. A long, boring boat race; at one point I even tweeted I would be on the air tomorrow before this game even ends. At that point, I also noticed, no one in my timeline was even mentioning the game meaning pretty much everyone had already turned it off. Not me. They pay me to grind it out and watch it from beginning to end. And I did. And here’s what I saw. And here’s what I wonder. I have to wonder how much Portland has left. They showed up in the bubble needing to brawl in every single game just to get to the playoffs. They got to the playoffs, won Game 1, and then ran into a buzzsaw in the next three games. Damian Lillard jacked up his finger in Game 2 and to make matters worse, injured his knee last night.

All of that said… last night wasn’t about the Blazers. And to hear the Lakers tell it, it wasn’t about the Lakers either. It was about Kobe Bryant and Jacob Blake.

Sunday was Kobe’s birthday. Yesterday was Mamba Day, 8/24, the two numbers he wore for the Lakers. And sure enough, at the 4:58 mark of the first quarter, the Lakers led the Blazers 24-8.

LeBron said when he saw that, he thought: “Okay. He’s here in the building.”

Frank Vogel said the entire game felt different. It felt less like a bubble game in August and more like the games back in February following Kobe’s death. “It definitely did remind me of that. The emotional aspect did feel different than any other game we played since we’ve been in the bubble.”

And watching it felt different as well. The Lakers absolutely hammered the Blazers. Portland has a team of pros, but they were genuinely never in that game.

And LA just kept attacking. They were everywhere – getting to the rack, crashing the boards, diving on the floor. As long as the starters were in, they did not let up. They had 43 in the first quarter.

And kept on dominating in the second quarter, at both ends.

We had garbage time before halftime and LeBron kept on attacking, hitting the last three shots before halftime.

How often do you see a team hit 80 in the first half? And then how often do you see them hit 80 in the first half of a playoff game?

And yet, they kept on. Like LeBron pulling up from Lillard Range.

That’s not just pulling up from Lillard Range, doing it on the break. That is brass. The game was over in the first four minutes and the next 44 were just details.

So here are some of the details:

LeBron had 30 points on 10 of 12 shooting. He also had 10 assists and 6 rebounds in just 28 minutes. Anthony Davis went for 18 points in 18 minutes. Kyle Kuzma 18 points. Dwight Howard 13 and 8. Danny Green 14. KCP 12.

But as great as that performance was, it still felt different. Normally, you smash a good team like Portland to take a 3-1 series lead and you’re happy. But not last night. Last night, they were dealing with issues much more important than basketball. 

As LeBron said, “I had so many emotions today because today is a big moment for our organization. You know, today is Kobe Bryant Day. We’re supposed to be celebrating and rejoicing and remembering everything he’s ever done, not only on the floor but off the floor. Uplifting the game of basketball. And at the same time, I see the video today for the first time and my emotions is all over the place.”

The video he’s referring to is the footage of police officers shooting Jacob Blake multiple times in his back in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And LeBron had a lot of thoughts about it.

And he had more.

Seeing the Blake video is horrifying and haunting. And maybe there are some of you who don’t want to hear about it. Maybe there are some of you who are still clinging to the idea that sports is an escape and that you come to sports to avoid stories like that.

But the people who play the sports you love are telling you that it’s not an escape. They are saying there is a problem and they want to be part of the solution.

Maybe you’d rather just talk about the Lakers blowing out the Blazers. It would be great if we could, but that’s just not the case. It would be ignorant to listen to the players after the game and then just talk about what Portland has to do to get back into the series or what Lillard’s MRI means or what a round two matchup would look like for the Lakers.

As LeBron said, “I can’t even enjoy a playoff win right now, which is the sad part.”

And he wasn’t alone. I’m going to play a couple clips. I’m just going to let the players speak and be heard, because the concern for a number of players was that if they went into the bubble, it would take the pressure and attention away from the issues they care about. So let’s just listen for a moment.

Here’s Kyle Kuzma: “It’s kind of depressing for a man to get shot seven times by cops, unarmed in front of his kids, that his kids will probably remember for the rest of their lives. You know, that’s scary, not only for me, but every African American. Every minority in this country. But you know it’s just something we just need to continue to work on as a society and change, because quite frankly it’s disgusting to have multiple cops around, and not even thinking about a taser, and you know, forget about the taser, just simple combat and taking a man down instead of trying to shoot him. And that has to change. Has to change.

“If you watch the video, you have cops running up to the car and you want to talk about ‘thugs’ all the time, you have cops shooting guys. It’s not it. It’s not it. We have to change that. We have to continue to speak on it, harp on it. And to the Jacob Blake family, we just want you to know, from people who have a platform, we’re going to continue to say your name and get justice for you, along with Breonna Taylor and every other victim of police brutality.”

And Anthony Davis: “I don’t have any teenage boys but I know Bron talked about it all the time with his two kids. And just a tough situation, the world is scared right now and the most we can do, we do have voices. Bron talks to us about voting all the time, he started his organization for everyone to vote and that’s kind of where it starts for us.”

The Lakers are up 3-1 in the series, but they aren’t celebrating. They’re feeling the loss of Kobe Bryant and the horror of Jacob Blake. We all should be. Because something has to change. Something. Has. To. Change.