The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks stepped it up on Thursday, bouncing back from opening upsets with convincing victories in the NBA playoffs.
LeBron James and the Lakers, seeded first in the Western Conference, thumped the Portland Trail Blazers 111-88 to even their best-of-seven series at one game apiece. The Bucks came back from a humbling loss to beat the Orlando Magic 111-96.
Anthony Davis, who struggled through an eight-of-24 shooting night in the Lakers’ game one loss to Portland, led Los Angeles with 31 points on 13 of 21 shooting and pulled down 11 rebounds in 29 minutes.
He’s the first Laker since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to score more than 30 points in a playoff game in less than 30 minutes of action.
“He was just aggressive from the beginning of the game,” James said of Davis. “He wasn’t passive at all, looked for his shots. He did a great job of rebounding as well, got some put-backs.”
James scored just 10 points, but his quiet night was no problem for a Lakers team that closed the first half on a 12-2 scoring run for a 17-point halftime lead.
“We knew we had to not have as many defensive lapses,” James said.
“When you have a defensive strategy you have to execute that strategy for 48 minutes and I think we did a great job of that tonight,” he added after the Lakers held the Blazers to 40% shooting overall and just 27.6% from three-point range.
The Lakers led by 30 – 88-58 – going into the fourth quarter, when Portland suddenly found themselves without star Damian Lillard.
Lillard exited with less than two minutes remaining in the third after dislocating his left index finger – apparently when he banged his hand against Davis’s foot while reaching for the ball.
Lillard, who torched the Lakers for 34 points in game one finished with 18.
The Blazers said X-rays on Lillard’s hand were negative, but any lingering problem for the player who powered Portland to a playoff berth – averaging 37.6 points and 9.6 assists in eight seeding games in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida – will be a severe blow to the Trail Blazers’ bid to topple the Lakers.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 16 points for the Lakers, JR Smith added 11 off the bench and center JaVale McGee chipped in 10.
Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 28 points and 20 rebounds as the Bucks brought the defensive intensity that carried them to the league’s best regular-season record.
“Our whole mindset this game was to come out, play hard, play together and as long as we got stops we were going to figure it out on offense,” Antetokounmpo said.
“I think the team did a great job first quarter, setting the tone. Coming out hard, playing hard, rebounding the ball and just making the right play.”
Brook Lopez scored 20 points and Pat Connaughton chipped in 15 for the Bucks, who led by as many as 23 in the first half.
Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic followed up his 35-point game one performance with 32 points.
But Milwaukee held the Magic without a point in the paint for the whole of the first quarter and out-rebounded Orlando 57-42.
“The effort was definitely an ‘A,’” Lopez said. “Game one they came in and they out-worked us, that’s not something we can allow.”
Rockets, Heat win
The Houston Rockets and Miami Heat both took commanding 2-0 leads in their series.
Houston, still playing without injured point guard Russell Westbrook, beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-98 despite a poor shooting night for star James Harden, who connected on just 5-of-16 shots from the floor on the way to 21 points.
Seven Rockets players scored in double figures and Houston made 19 of their NBA playoff-record 56 three-point attempts to take a commanding lead in the Western Conference clash.
“Couldn’t make a shot,” Harden said. “I just tried to be active defensively, tried to do other things to impact the game.”
Houston trailed by one going into the fourth quarter, but after Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul hit a jumper seconds into the period Houston put together a 17-0 scoring run, shutting out the Thunder for more than five minutes with a tremendous defensive display to put the game out of reach.
Just two points in the run came from NBA scoring champion Harden.
“My teammates, man, they did an unbelievable job, especially in that fourth quarter getting stops,” Harden said. “I think we got five, six stops in a row and just turned the whole game around.”
Miami guard Duncan Robinson made seven of eight from three-point range for a game-high 24 points in the Heat’s 109-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Miami 109 Indiana 100
(Miami lead series 2-0)
Orlando 96 Milwaukee 111
(Series tied 1-1)
Oklahoma City 98 Houston 111
(Houston lead series 2-0)
Portland 88 LA Lakers 111
(Series tied 1-1)