On paper, the Lakers will be looking to complete a typical first-round series victory for a number one seed this evening. They’re currently leading 3-1 in the series against the eighth-seeded Trail Blazers, as they have run out of gas and have now lost their superstar Damian Lillard who gave them everything he had to even put them in this position. Even with Lillard, the Trail Blazers have looked like the much worse team, even if they pulled off a Game 1 win.
I say that the series looks normal on paper to highlight that this series has been anything but that. In regards to basketball reasons, the Trail Blazers are not your typical eighth-seed, coming into the bubble with a terrible record after missing key players nearly all season such as Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. Many argued that if the Trail Blazers had those players all season, they’d actually be a possible five or six seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers have seemingly overcome that challenge, but as they were looking to close out the series on Wednesday, another challenge arose. The Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their game that day against the Orlando Magic, and the rest is (literally) history. The Lakers’ game later that day was postponed to tonight, as the season was almost canceled again. This time it wasn’t due to coronavirus, but the players’ perceived lack of action from the league in response to social injustices in America related to police brutality.
The playoffs are now back on track, but the Lakers and the rest of the players around the league have to be physically and mentally exhausted. Wednesday’s evening meetings between players and coaches had many conflicting reports about them, but what was clear was that the conversations were emotional. The night even included conversations with Jacob Blake’s family as well as former president Barack Obama as the players had many discussions to figure out what their next steps should be.
Looking ahead, the Lakers would be playing either the Houston Rockets or the Oklahoma City Thunder who are currently tied 2-2 in their series going into their game today at 3:30 p.m. PST. Those two teams would have to play at least one more game on Monday, with the potential of a Game 7 in that series happening next Wednesday.
Winning tonight would give the Lakers an automatic advantage going into the second round. That advantage would be the physical rest that the Lakers would get, something that would be welcomed by a team that has been battered and bruised in their time in the bubble.
More important than that though, the Lakers could use a mental break from everything that has transpired. Although the NBA players are more than willing to be leaders in America in this fight against social injustice, they are doing so right now without their loved ones by their side while also having to endure basketball games that require their full and utmost attention to the on-court details. You can talk about how much money they have and how you don’t feel sympathy for them because of that, but that still doesn’t negate the fact that these men are human beings at the end of it all. No amount of money will ever change that.
In fact, this is something that Danny Green mentioned yesterday following the Lakers’ first practice since Game 5 was postponed. He was speaking in reference to Paul George’s comments on being in a dark place in regards to negative social media posts revolving around his poor shooting in the playoffs. Green talked about the isolation that the bubble brings, while also pointing out that everything in the world has been “disheartening” and that the Lakers are “humans too”. That may seem like an insane idea that Green would have to emphasize to people, but that’s just the reality of the social media age that we live in where these players always have a (usually negative) spotlight on them.
The Lakers will face the Trail Blazers at 6:00 p.m. PST / 9:00 p.m. EST tonight. If they win, they will await the results of the Rockets-Thunder series. Hopefully if the Lakers win, they will get a much deserved day off tomorrow to relax and possibly get some more Madden games in.