James played noticeably aggressively in the team’s first-round series against Portland on Saturday, recording 38 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in 34 minutes of work. It’s the type of play the Lakers need to defeat a fearless Blazers team, especially with a star backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum tiring out the likes of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green each game.
“I just think my offensive pace tonight,” James said postgame. “At times I was fast, slow, medium-paced. It was like a stick shift. Sometimes I was in gear 1, sometimes I was in gear 6. Being able to read and react, depending on whether I had the cruise on or was in a residential area or the highway or I was on the straightaway. Being able to have a car that can go in different speeds and zones, depending on what the traffic is, is very key.”
James was joined in the win by fellow All-Star Anthony Davis, who finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists. The two stars each shot 11-of-18 from the field and took a combined 31 attempts from the free throw line, demonstrating their aggressive mindset and play.
“I told Bron at half, I have to take some of the pressure off of him,” Davis said. “I missed a ton of free throws [five of nine first-half attempts]. I didn’t want him to have to carry the team the whole time, where he didn’t have to try to come down and score every time.
“He was in attack mode. We need him like that all the time. When he’s attacking, it’s our job to make shots.”
Here are some other notes out of the Pacific Division:
- Kings guard De’Aaron Fox showed flashes of a potential superstar during his third season in the league, Kyle Ramos of NBA.com writes. Fox, 22, averaged a career-high 21.1 points, 6.8 assists and 1.5 steals per contest this year, also shooting a career-best 48% from the floor in 51 games. His averages increased to an impressive 25.3 points and 7.3 assists during the Orlando games.
- Anthony Slater of The Athletic examines the Warriors’ options in the 2020 NBA draft, with the team being awarded the No. 2 overall pick last week. The current front-runner to be drafted by Golden State appears to be 7’1″ center James Wiseman, though no decisions have been finalized yet — and that’s if the team decides to even keep the pick. “I know there’s a lot of narrative around us trading our pick and what we’re going to do with it, but we don’t really know anything,” general manager Bob Myers said. “At this point, we found out half an hour ago we had the No. 2 pick, so that’s the first step as far as getting some clarity.”
- Suns coach Monty Williams spoke with Greg Moore of The Arizona Republic on a number of topics, including how he guided his team to an 8-0 record in Orlando and how he handled the social justice movement. “We did have organic, spontaneous conversations even before we went to Orlando — maybe three Zoom chats, where we had really good conversations that weren’t just about basketball,” Williams said of his team. “Then when we got to Orlando, we just dialed in to what we say every day, ‘Family on three.’”