The results of an MRI of Damian Lillard's right knee tonight were inconclusive. Lillard will undergo a second MRI on Tuesday afternoon in Orlando.— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) August 25, 2020
Get your brooms ready, because we're headed for a gentlemen's sweep. After losing Game 1 of their first-round series against Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers have absolutely decimated the No. 8 seed. They won Games 2 and 3 by a combined 31 points, and then ran roughshod over the Blazers for yet another decimation in Game 4, 135-115. Once again leading the way was LeBron James who scored 30 points on a blistering 10-of-12 shooting to go along with 10 assists and six rebounds. Playoff LeBron is back.
Playoff Damian Lillard, however, is not. He left Game 4 with a knee injury after scoring only 11 points through two quarters and some change. Anthony Davis similarly left the game, nominally due to back spasms, but given the enormous margin, the Lakers saw no need to risk their franchise center in a blowout. Right now, they can afford to think that way. The Lakers are firing on all cylinders, and have every right to believe they've reclaimed the mantle of championship favorite. Here's everything you need to know about this dominant Laker victory.
1. In honor of Kobe
Monday was the first-ever Kobe Bryant day in Southern California. The deceased legend wore No. 8 and No. 24 during his 20-year Laker career, so 8/24 was chosen to memorialize him. Given the NBA's typical schedule, the Lakers may never have another chance to honor Bryant on his day again. NBA games aren't typically played in August, but the Lakers took advantage of the rare opportunity to play for Kobe.
They wore the "Black Mamba" uniforms that he designed for the game, but the rest of their tributes could not possibly have been planned. The Lakers opened this game on a 24-8 run, putting both of Bryant's numbers on the scoreboard at the same time (naturally, with the Lakers on top as he would have liked). LeBron James scored eight points in the first quarter, and with Davis' 16, the two combined to match Bryant's 24 yet again. In the end, thanks to his 30 points and 10 assists, James became the first Laker since Bryant to post consecutive playoff double-doubles. J.R. Smith even tied Bryant on the NBA's all-time postseason 3-point leaderboard.
It's been months since Bryant's death in a January helicopter accident, but the Lakers haven't forgotten him. They never will. While it's far from their only motivator, the Lakers would surely love to win a championship in Kobe's honor, and if tonight is any indication, they are this season's team of destiny.
2. The cold streak is over
The Lakers made 17 3-pointers in this game, shooting 17-of-39 against the Blazers. The Lakers made 16 3-pointers only five times during the regular season. They hadn't done so since Feb. 1. It has literally been over six months since the Lakers matched this level of shooting, and it's just in time, too.
The Lakers couldn't hit the broad side of a barn during the seeding games. They weren't a particularly good shooting team during the regular season, but that weakness tends to get amplified in the playoffs. When teams double LeBron and Davis, the Laker role players will need to be able to make their shots. Kyle Kuzma has been on fire since entering the bubble, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green going 5-of-8 on 3's is enormous for their confidence. This version of the Lakers, the one that spaces the floor well even with multiple big men on the floor, can hang with anybody.
3. Stick a fork in the Blazers
Their seeding games were downright inspirational. Their Game 1 victory was stunning. But now that we have a meaningful sample of the Blazers playing against championship-caliber competition, the verdict is in: they can't keep up. The Lakers have beaten the stuffing out of Portland since that Game 1 upset, and as much credit as they deserve for doing so, Portland's depleted roster is doing a lot of the heavy lifting here.
Zach Collins was ruled out for the series with a stress fracture. Rodney Hood has been most of the season. C.J. McCollum is dealing with a fracture in his lower back. Damian Lillard added a knee injury to his dislocated finger in Game 4. Maybe at full strength the Blazers could have made this interesting, but the Lakers have such an overwhelming health advantage at this point that any notions of competition between these two teams have now been dismissed. This is a mismatch. It will end on Wednesday.