It’s time for Game 4 in the opening round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs. The favorites are trying to pull away with 3-1 leads, while the underdogs are trying to even the score at 2-2. The #1 LA Lakers lost Game 1 to the #8 Portland Trail Blazers, but have since won two games in a row to regain control of the series. The #4 Houston Rockets jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the #5 Oklahoma City Thunder, but the Thunder finally notched an overtime win with a 119-107 victory in Game 3.
The Rockets looked fine without Russell Westbrook in the first two games. Westbrook continues to nurse a calf injury and will be a game-time decision for Game 4.
The Thunder lost the first two games by double digits, but finally reversed their fortunes in Game 3 in OT. They come into Game 4 as a +2.5 dog.
NBA PLAYOFFS LINES 8/24/20
Houston Rockets -2.5 at Oklahoma City Thunder (o/u 223.5)
LA Lakers -7 at Portland Trail Blazers (o/u 225)
The Lakers had a tough draw against the surging Trail Blazers, who are arguably fielding the most talented #8 seed in the Western Conference over the last few decades. The Blazers picked off the sluggish Lakers in Game 1 before LeBron James finally switched on his “beast-mode” NBA playoffs setting and took over in Game 2.
The Houston Rockets blew a chance to seize a 3-0 lead without their second-best player. The Oklahoma City Thunder knew that an 0-3 start is the kiss of death and did everything possible to avoid the funeral march. The Thunder avoided the 0-3 hole with an overtime win in Game 3.
Dennis Schroder shook off a bad shooting night from 3-point range and scored a team-high 29 points off the bench for the Thunder.
“The biggest message I wanted to give the guys was play aggressive an attack,” said Thunder coach Billy Donovan. “Dennis set a great tone for that early in the game.”
Chris Paul scored 26 points and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 23 points in the OT victory.
“We just wanted to fight,” said the veteran Paul. “So, we know how tough it is coming back down 0-3. We wanted to fight tonight.”
Without Westbrook for a third-straight playoff game, James Harden was a one-man wrecking crew once again. Harden unleashed 38 points along with seven rebounds and eight assists in the loss. He struggled from 3-point land with 3-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc.
“We definitely let one get away,” said Harden. “Especially in that last minute and I think, throughout the course of the game, we just made too many mental mistakes and gave them an opportunity to score and it’s that simple.”
Jeff Green scored 22 points and hauled down seven rebounds off the bench, but the Rockets’ big men were outgunned once again. Starting forwards PJ Tucker and Robert Covington scored 10 combined points.
Lakers D-Up Dame, Lead 2-1
The Lakers dropped 40 points in the third quarter to pull away from the Trail Blazers in Game 3. But it’s their defense, led by Anthony Davis, that helped them take a 2-1 series lead.
“AD, he just turned it on,” said LA head coach Frank Vogel.
LeBron scored 38 points, hauled down 12 rebounds, and missed a triple-double with eight assists. Davis added 29 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, and three blocks.
“It came down to a fourth-quarter game,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “Davis made his perimeter shots and we came up empty too often.”
Damian Lillard (34 points) and CJ McCollum (28 points) combined for 62 points for the Blazers, but they earned every point they made. The two were harassed on the perimeter all game. The Lakers smothered Dame in the fourth quarter and he shot only 1-for-6, including 0-for-4 from 3-point land.
“It wasn’t our night to make those shots,” said Lillard. “The effort was there. The aggressiveness was there. We just didn’t make the shots that we usually make.”
Carmelo Anthony added 20 points, but the rest of the Blazers failed to show up. The Portland bench scored just eight points in the loss.
Lillard injured his left index finger in Game 2 when he suffered a dislocation. He played through the pain and his injury didn’t affect his shooting or playmaking.