MIAMI, United States, Aug 29 – The Milwaukee Bucks powered into the second round of the NBA playoffs on Saturday, three days after their refusal to take the court in the wake of a police shooting in Wisconsin brought the post-season to a halt.
Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds and the Bucks led by as many as 21 on the way to a 118-104 victory over the Orlando Magic.
Milwaukee won the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series 4-1 to line up a second-round clash with the Miami Heat, who swept the Indiana Pacers 4-0.
In the Western Conference, Anthony Davis scored 43 points and LeBron James kept his perfect first-round playoff record alive as the Los Angeles Lakers beat Portland 131-122 to clinch their series in five games.
James won all 14 playoff first-round series in which he has played.
“We knew this was a hot Portland team. We wanted to come in and get better and better as the series went on, and we did that,” said James.
Just days earlier there was a real chance that players would opt out of the remainder of the post-season in the NBA’s coronavirus quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
The Bucks were prepared to forfeit game five against the Magic on Wednesday after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
But the Magic, and eventually the rest of the teams remaining in the bubble, backed their action, to launch hours of discussion among players, coaches and league officials on how they could unite to combat racial injustice and police brutality.
The Bucks players were able to contact Blake’s family.
“We were able to get his family’s number,” Antetokounmpo said. “And, we came together as a team, went in a circle, talked to his dad and his dad was tearing up telling us how powerful what we did on that day was for him and his family, and that’s bigger than basketball to me.”
With plans in place for concrete action to promote voting and civic engagement, and support police and criminal justice reform legislation, the season resumed.
There were signs of rust early from both the Bucks and Magic, who hadn’t played since Monday.
Both teams connected on less than 40 percent of their shots from the field in the first quarter, but Milwaukee picked up the pace in the second led by Antetokounmpo’s 6-of-6 shooting.
After Orlando reserve Terrence Ross drained a three-pointer to level the score at 31-31, an Antetokounmpo dunk launched a 13-0 scoring run for the Bucks who led 67-50 at the half.
Milwaukee quickly pushed the lead to 20 after the interval and took a 90-79 lead into the final frame.
“Just keep getting better,” was Antetokounmpo’s prescription for Milwaukee as they moved ahead. “Keep getting better every game, playing hard always. Defensively we’ve just got to pick it up a little bit, just make it as tough as possible for whoever we play.”
– Moment of silence –
There was a somber mood to the restart with moment of silences before the games in memory of former Trail Blazers star Cliff Roberts, Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson and actor Chadwick Boseman, who all died this week.
Roberts, 53, helped the Trail Blazers reach two NBA Finals in his 18-year career that included an All-Star nod.
Olson, 85, mentored future NBA stars as he made the University of Arizona a college basketball power.
Boseman, star of the ground-breaking superhero movie Black Panther died at the age of 43 after a battle with cancer.
Lakers star Davis finished with 43 points and James had 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers won their first playoff series in eight years.
Davis shot 14-of-18 from the floor and James made 14-of-19 shots for the Lakers, who hadn’t won a series since beating the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2012 postseason.
The Lakers will face either Houston or Oklahoma City in the next round. Houston leads that series three games to two.
“We have an opportunity to decompress just a little bit and wait for our next opponent,” James said.
CJ McCollum recorded 36 points and seven assists and Carmelo Anthony added 27 points for the Trail Blazers, who were missing Damian Lillard.
Lillard left the pandemic bubble during the latest shutdown and returned to Portland to have his injured right knee looked at by team doctors.
Elsewhere, James Harden scored 31 points and Robert Covington finished with 22 points and seven rebounds as the Houston Rockets routed the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-80 to take a 3-2 series lead.dh