Florida: After three days of no basketball and emotionally charged meetings over whether to continue to play, three days of seeing how everyone in the NBA’s bubble could use their platforms to further their causes for social justice, the Lakers had to collect themselves and play a close-out game.
They had to remember why they had come to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, and that was to compete for an NBA championship. But they also had to remember why they were playing the games and that was to speak out about racial issues and police brutality.
The 131-122 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night, a win the Lakers earned because of a combined 79-point effort from LeBron James and Anthony Davis, pushed the Lakers to the second round of the play-offs after winning the Western Conference first-round series 4-1.
James had a triple-double with 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and Davis had 43 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
After the Lakers had won their fourth straight game, James talked about how his team had improved after dropping Game 1.
“We got better,” James said during his postgame interview on TNT. “We got better throughout the course of this series. We knew we were coming into a series with a hot Portland team that was playing probably the best basketball inside the bubble along with Phoenix. So we wanted to just come in and just try to work on our game and get better and better as the games went on, as the series went on and I believe we did that.”
When the Lakers were just starting to wake up from their pre-game naps Wednesday, they were getting knocks on their hotel doors to tell them about an urgent meeting.
The Milwaukee Bucks had decided to boycott their game earlier Wednesday against the Orlando Magic. The Bucks were protesting in the wake of Jacob Blake, a black man, being shot seven times in the back by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which is about 40 minutes south of Milwaukee.
After the Lakers-Trail Blazers and Rockets-Thunder games were postponed later Wednesday night, all the players and teams had a contentious meeting about playing or leaving and going home.
The Lakers, along with the Clippers, had voted to go home.
But after going to sleep Wednesday night, the Lakers had a change of heart and decided not to leave, all of them feeling they can get more accomplished by playing and using their voices for change.
“I think we all was on the same page,” said Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had 14 points, five assists and three steals in Game 5. “But, that was just making a decision right at the moment. I feel like we didn’t have enough time to really like grasp it and take it in, so the decision was kind of made on random thoughts. But we took a day and we all decided that being here, using our platform here is way better than just going home and leaving.”