LeBron James had 29 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists as the Los Angeles Lakers advanced to their first NBA Western Convention last in a decade with a 119-96 blowout win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday. Anthony Davis tallied 13 points and 11 rebounds, Kyle Kuzma had 17 and Markieff Morris finished with 16 for the Lakers, who eliminated the Rockets in five games in the quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida. Los Angeles advanced to their first NBA last four since the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers whip Phoenix for the convention title and then defeated Boston for the 2010 NBA championship, the final time they won.
“It is the reason I wanted to be part of this franchise is to take them back to a place they were accustomed to being. And that’s the reason competing for a championship,” said James.
“It’s an honour for me to wear the purple and gold and for us to just try to continue the legacy and just play great basketball for our fans.”
This will be James’s 11th career convention finals but when asked by reporters how it feels, he changed the subject to discuss the group as a whole.
“Each game is a learning experience for us. Each game is another possibility for us to recuperate. We need to continue to build,” said James.
They’re going to face either the Los Angeles Clippers or the Denver Nuggets in the next playoff round. The Clippers lead that series 3-2.
The Lakers got off to their best start of the series, dominating the opening plays to take a 35-20 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Their only lull of the game came in the start of the second one quarter when Houston briefly woke from their slumber and cut the lead to seven, 38-31.
But the Lakers outscored the Rockets 33-18 in the third to take full command.
They drained 19 three-pointers and shot 52 percent from the floor.
With the game in hand, the Lakers sat three-time NBA champion James and Davis for much of the fourth quarter.
“Everything is falling into place. When I got here the goal used to be to win a championship and now we are eight wins absent,” said Davis.
– ‘A piece absent’ –
Once again the James Harden-led Rockets put up little resistance as Houston, after surprising the Lakers in game one of the vital series, missing their fourth straight and their third in a row by more than 10 points.
Harden led the Rockets with 30 points and Russell Westbrook scored just 10 in the loss.
Harden had a disappointing series, delivering another series of fourth-quarter playoff disappearing acts that have pockmarked his career.
“Hard season for us. Obviously it didn’t end the way we wanted it to. So, we just got to figure it out,” he said.
Prior to now five years, Harden has shot less than 25 percent from beyond the arc in post-season fourth quarters and overtime. He finished two-of-eight from three-point range on Saturday.
Harden said Saturday all they wish to change into great is to add one more piece to the puzzle.
“It’s very, very frustrating. Particularly the amount of work individually I put in,” he said. “But I’ve got to retain chipping absent. I’ve got to retain going and retain going until I will’t go anymore.
“I feel like we’re a piece absent and we’ve just got retain trying to figure it out. Retain trying to put the pieces around me and Russ to receive us where we need to go,” said Harden.
Tempers flared in the fourth quarter both off and on the floor. The brother of Lakers Rajon Rondo now has the doubtful honour of being the first fan thrown out of a bubble game after he exchanged words with Houston’s Westbrook.
The public isn’t allowed in the arena on account of the coronavirus pandemic but players are allowed to invite a limited number of friends and family to watch the games in person.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, whose contract expires at the end of the season, couldn’t say if he’ll be back.
“We’re going to see what happens. I had four years. With a bit of luck it assists in keeping going, but you just never realize,” he said.
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