LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Los Angeles Lakers jumped out to an apt 24-8 lead on Kobe Bryant Day and dominated the Portland Trail Blazers the rest of the way to take a 3-1 advantage in their playoff series with a 135-115 victory Monday night.
LeBron James had 30 points and 10 assists in 28 minutes before heading to the bench late in the third quarter. The Lakers led by as many as 38 points for their third straight win in the opening-round series, the team’s first playoff appearance since 2013.
The Trail Blazers won the opener but have appeared gassed in the past two games as the grind of the bubble and injuries appear to have taken a toll. Damian Lillard, the MVP of the seeding games in the NBA bubble, had 11 points before leaving with a right knee injury in the third. Jusuf Nurkic had 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Anthony Davis added 18 points in 18 minutes for the Lakers before leaving the game midway through the third with back spasms.
The Lakers, the top seed in the Western Conference, can close out the series on Wednesday.
It was considered “Kobe Day” because Monday was 8/24, the two numbers Kobe Bryant wore during his 20-year career.
Los Angeles honoured the Lakers legend and his daughter, Gianna, during the game, wearing black “Black Mamba” jerseys with a heart-shaped No. 2 patch to honour Gianna.
Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter accident with his daughter in January, would have celebrated his 42nd birthday on Sunday.
“We want to have this be a day to celebrate his life and carry that type of emotion into the game,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said before the game. “We’ve always wanted to embody what he stood for and we all know that he would want us to keep our foot on the gas even though we’ve won two in a row.”
Inspired by Bryant, the Lakers’ 24-8 lead seemed fortuitous, and they went on to outscore the Blazers 43-25 in the first quarter.
The Lakers led 80-51 at the half. It was the most points in a half for Los Angeles in a playoff game since a game against Denver in 1987.
James nailed 3-pointer from some 36 feet out and then demonstratively nodded as the Lakers took an 80-53 lead. The Blazers struggled to even keep up.
Lillard dislocated his left index finger in Game 2 and backcourt teammate CJ McCollum has been playing with a fractured vertebra in his lower back.
The severity of Lillard’s knee injury was not immediately known.
Lakers: Rajon Rondo did not play, again spoiling his return from a right thumb injury. Rondo was a late scratch from Game 3 because of back spasms.
Trail Blazers: It was the first time this season that the Blazers allowed an opponent 80 first-half points. … Blazers forward Zach Collins will need surgery on his left ankle injury. Collins had just returned from a shoulder injury that kept him out of much of the season.
Game 5 in the series is set for Wednesday.