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Saturday’s NBA playoffs: LeBron James, Lakers advance with win over Trail Blazers

Associated Press

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — While the ultimate objective is to win a title, LeBron James said the Los Angeles Lakers achieved a key goal against the Portland Trail Blazers – and it wasn’t simply to win the first-round playoff series.

It was an improvement.

“We got better throughout the course of the series,” James said. “We knew we were coming into a series versus a hot Portland team that was playing the best basketball inside the bubble along with Phoenix. So we wanted to just come in and try to work our game, get better and better as the games went on, as the series went on. And I believe we did that.”

LeBron James

James had 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and the Lakers advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, beating the short-handed Blazers 131-122 in Game 5 on Saturday night.

Anthony Davis had a playoff-best 43 points for the top-seeded Lakers in their first playoff appearance since 2013. The Lakers hadn’t won a playoff series since 2012.

James has never lost a first-round playoff series, going 14-0.

The Lakers will play the winner of the series between Houston and Oklahoma City. The Rockets took a 3-2 lead with a 114-80 victory earlier Saturday.

CJ McCollum had 36 points for the surprisingly scrappy Trail Blazers, who played without injured All-Star guard Damian Lillard. Carmelo Anthony added 27 points.

Down 14 in the third quarter, Portland got to 100-97 on McCollum’s layup and tied it on Anfernee Simon’s 3-pointer to cap an 8-point run with 9:46 left. James answered with a 3.

Gary Trent Jr.’s 3-pointer tied it at 109 with just under seven minutes to go. Again the Lakers held off Portland with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 3.

After Trent’s 3-pointer closed it to 114-112 with 4:53 left, Davis had a personal 11-0 run to put Los Angeles up 123-112 and all but seal it.

The game was originally set for Wednesday night, but players collectively decided not to play in the three playoff games scheduled for that day to protest racial injustice following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Games on Friday were also postponed.

James said he hopes the past few days made a difference.

“Obviously, the bubble season will never be forgotten. In sports, this is the first time we’ve been able to do something like this, but this moment is so much bigger than us playing basketball,” James said. “Hopefully, years on down the line, when America is in a better place, you can look back to this moment and be like, that was one of the catapults that kind of got it going.”

Lillard injured his right knee in Game 4 that prompted him to leave the bubble in Florida and return to Portland to see team doctors. Lillard was named MVP of the seeding games heading into the playoffs, averaging 37.6 points and 9.6 assists in eight games.

Trent Jr. took his Lillard’s spot in the opening lineup. But because of injuries the eighth-seeded Blazers had just nine players available for the game.

“All you can do is hope to hang around and make it a fourth-quarter game and win in the end, and we didn't quite win it in the end,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.

Portland’s lone win in the first-round series came in Game 1.

More NBA playoffs

Houston 114, Oklahoma City 80: James Harden scored 31 points and Russell Westbrook returned to face his former team in the playoffs for the first time, helping Houston beat Oklahoma City for a 3-2 series lead.

Robert Covington added 22 points and Eric Gordon had 20. The Rockets can advance to the conference semifinals with a victory Monday.

Westbrook, who had played played just one game since Aug. 4 because of a quadriceps injury – missing the Rockets’ first four playoff games – had seven points, six rebounds and seven assists in 23 minutes.

Dennis Schroder led the Thunder with 19 points despite being ejected midway through the third quarter for hitting P.J. Tucker in the groin; Tucker also was ejected after retaliating with a head-butt.

Steven Adams had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Darius Bazley had 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunder. They trailed by three at halftime before giving up 19 of the first 21 points of the third.

Houston scored 20 of the game’s first 27 points, but the Thunder erased the deficit in the second – taking a brief lead of as many as five points – before the Rockets took a 48-45 lead into the half. Houston outscored the Thunder 37-18 in the third.

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) keeps the ball from Orlando Magic's Evan Fournier (10) during the first half.

Milwaukee 119, Orlando 104: Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points and 17 rebounds and Milwaukee beat Orlando to close out the Eastern Conference series in five games.

The Bucks advanced to face Miami in the second round, beginning Monday.

Chris Middleton added 21 points and 10 rebounds for Milwaukee. The Bucks had a 21-point lead trimmed to three in the fourth quarter before regaining control with the help of timely outside shooting by Marvin Williams.

Williams scored all 12 of his points on 3-pointers, and Brook Lopez added 16 points for Milwaukee, which won four straight after dropping the opener.

Nicola Vucevic had 22 points and 15 rebounds for Orlando. Evan Fournier added 18 points.

First round

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Milwaukee 4, Orlando 1

Aug. 18: Orlando, 122, Milwaukee 110

Aug. 20: Milwaukee 111, Orlando 96

Aug. 22: Milwaukee 121, Orlando 107

Aug. 24: Milwaukee 121, Orlando 106

Aug. 26: Orlando vs. Milwaukee, ppd.

Aug. 29: Milwaukee 118, Orlando 104

Toronto 4, Brooklyn 0

Aug. 17: Toronto 134, Brooklyn 110

Aug. 19: Toronto 104, Brooklyn 99

Aug. 21: Toronto 117, Brooklyn 92

Aug. 23: Toronto 150, Brooklyn 122

Boston 4, Philadelphia 0

Aug. 17: Boston 109, Philadelphia 101

Aug. 19: Boston 128, Philadelphia 101

Aug. 21: Boston 102, Philadelphia 94

Aug. 23: Boston 110, Philadelphia 106

Miami 4, Indiana 0

Aug. 18: Miami 113 Indiana 101

Aug. 20: Miami 109, Indiana 100

Aug. 22: Miami 124, Indiana 115

Aug. 24: Miami 99, Indiana 87

WESTERN CONFERENCE

L.A. Lakers 4, Portland 1

Aug. 18: Portland 100, L.A. Lakers 93

Aug. 20: L.A. Laker 111, Portland 88

Aug. 22: L.A. Lakers 116, Portland 108

Aug. 24: L.A. Lakers 135 Portland 115

Aug. 26: Portland vs. L.A. Lakers, ppd.

Aug. 29: L.A. Lakers 131, Portland 122

L.A. Clippers 3, Dallas 2

Aug. 17: L.A. Clippers 118, Dallas 110

Aug. 19: Dallas 127, L.A. Clippers 114

Aug. 21: L.A. Clippers 130, Dallas 122

Aug. 23: Dallas 135, L.A. Clippers 133, OT

Aug. 25: L.A. Clippers 154, Dallas 111

Aug. 27: L.A. Clippers vs. Dallas, ppd.

Sunday, Aug. 30: Dallas vs. L.A. Clippers, 3:30 p.m.

x-Tuesday, Sept. 1 L.A. Clippers vs. Dallas, TBD

Utah 3, Denver 2

Aug. 17: Denver 135, Utah 125, OT

Aug. 19: Utah 124, Denver 105

Aug. 21: Utah 124, Denver 87

Aug. 23: Utah 129, Denver 127

Aug. 25: Denver 117, Utah 107

Aug. 27: Denver vs Utah, ppd.

Sunday, Aug. 30: Utah vs. Denver, 8:30 p.m.

x-Tuesday, Sept. 1: Utah vs. Denver, TBD

Houston 3, Oklahoma City 2

Aug. 18: Houston 123, Oklahoma City 108

Aug. 20: Houston 112, Oklahoma City 98

Aug. 22: Oklahoma City 119, Houston 107, OT

Aug. 24: Oklahoma City 117, Houston 114

Aug. 26: Oklahoma City vs. Houston, ppd.

Aug. 29: Houston 114, Oklahoma City 80

Monday, Aug. 31: Houston vs. Oklahoma City, 6:30 p.m.

x-Wednesday, Sept. 2 Oklahoma City vs. Houston, TBD

Conference semifinals

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Milwaukee vs. Miami

Monday, Aug. 31: Miami vs. Milwaukee, TBD

Wednesday, Sept. 2: Miami vs. Milwaukee, TBD

Friday, Sept. 4: Milwaukee vs. Miami, TBD

Sunday, Sept. 6: Milwaukee vs. Miami, TBD

x-Tuesday, Sept. 8: Miami vs. Milwaukee, TBD

x-Thursday, Sept. 10: Milwaukee vs. Miami, TBD

x-Saturday, Sept. 12: Miami vs. Milwaukee, TBD

Toronto vs. Boston

Sunday, Aug. 30: Boston vs. Toronto, 1 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 1: Boston vs. Toronto, TBD

Tursday, Sept. 3: Toronto vs. Boston, TBD

Saturday, Sept. 5: Toronto vs. Boston, TDB

x-Monday, Sept. 7: Boston vs. Toronto, TBD

x-Wednesday, Sept. 9: Toronto vs. Boston, TBD

x-Friday, Sept. 11: Boston vs. Toronto, TBD