LeBron James’ latest heroics leave Lakers teammates, opponents in awe

You know what they say: Don’t take LeBron James for granted.

It seems like an outlandish premise, perhaps, that anyone would overlook his ability as he stormed to his 10th NBA Finals in 17 seasons.

James, of course, had his ears open last offseason for whispers that he might be “washed” after a groin injury slowed him in his first season in L.A. and curtailed his personal 13-season playoff streak. And he found any such sentiments quite motivational, it turns out.

But don’t count anyone on or near the court in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals among James’ doubters, not Saturday, and likely not ever — especially not after he soloed for a decisive nine-point charge in the fourth quarter of the 117-107 series-clinching victory, all but singlehandedly snuffing out the never-ever-quit Nuggets, who’d rallied from 16 points down to as close as 2 with 10:25 to play.

“When you just step back and look and marvel at what LeBron is doing at this stage of his career, how he continues to find ways to improve and get better and take whatever team he’s on to new heights, that defines his greatness,” said Denver coach Michael Malone, who coached James in Cleveland between 2005-10.

“He’s one of the greatest to ever do it and his resume speaks for itself. In a Game 5, closeout game, when the game was hanging in the balance, who took over? The best player on the floor.”

James’ starring sidekick Anthony Davis hit big shots and played staunch defense in the series against Denver, but when it was time to close the door, he was happy to let James slam it shut it so hard it shook the bubble.

“He told us it was his time, he told me it was his time and everybody just kinda got out the way and let him be him,” Davis said. “And he brought it home for us. He’s always capable of doing that, he makes the right plays, he makes the right reads and tonight, the read for him was to get to the basket and finish or make a play. All of them was good reads and he carried us tonight.”

The way Lakers guard Alex Caruso described it, being on the court as a witness as James went to work was something of a gift.

“It’s just super cool for me to be able to have this experience and play meaningful minutes, and to play well and be on the court with LeBron scoring (nine) points to close out the game in big time moments,” Caruso said, going on to describe the confidence James instills in his side when he gets going in crunch time.

“Once LeBron starts making outside shots late in the game, I kind of know that it’s over for the other team, just because I know we’re gonna get stops eventually, we’re gonna make enough plays down the stretch to get the game under control. And a guy like that, what else do you want to do? Just give him the ball and let him be himself. He’s one of the greatest players to ever play for a reason.”

Or, as Lakers guard Danny Green put it: “He hasn’t let people forget, this guy’s the greatest player in the … damn world.”

For his part, James said he never really relishes the moments like the other players who were part of his audience Saturday, even now, as he’s aged and developed more perspective.

“I don’t, unfortunately,” he said. “I wish I did. They happen so fast and my mind is still so locked in on the journey, that it’s hard for me to take in and appreciate what we just accomplished. Just how I’ve always been. I always say that when I’m done playing the game, hopefully I look back on it and enjoy it — and hopefully I will. Hopefully I can, because I don’t think I enjoy it enough when I’m in it, because I’m so engulfed in the process until the final call.”

LeBron James said he doesn’t savor games like this one, or fourth quarters like this one, more now that he’s older. He says he’s too engulfed in the process to celebrate what the Lakers have achieved so far. pic.twitter.com/lsQt7vxsP5

— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) September 27, 2020

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Alexander: This is why Anthony Davis is a Laker

  • Los Angeles Lakers players celebrate at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) tries to block a shot by Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James sits on the bench during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone reacts on the bench during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) drives past Denver Nuggets’ Jerami Grant (9) during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray (27) celebrates during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) drives to the basket around Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso, right, during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) celebrates after an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammate Anthony Davis (3) after an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) watches his last second 3-point basket between Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) and Jerami Grant (9) in an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) drives past Denver Nuggets’ Jerami Grant (9) during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers players celebrate at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) tries to block a shot by Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammate Anthony Davis (3) after an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) reacts after making a 3-point basket during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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The seeds of Sunday night’s madness in the Orlando bubble, and the latest addition to the Laker franchise’s gallery of postseason moments, were planted June 15, 2019. That was the day the Lakers landed Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, the day Davis and LeBron James got their wishes, and the day that sometimes quixotic quest for the franchise’s 17th title again got serious.

“This,” Davis told TNT’s Allie LaForce Sunday evening, “is what they brought me here for.”

Davis’ buzzer-beating three-pointer – officially a 26-footer according to the play-by-play sheet – for a 105-103 victory over Denver didn’t win a championship or even a series. There is still way too much work to do during this Western Conference Finals showdown with the stubborn Nuggets, never mind anything beyond that.

But given the circumstances  – down a point, 2.1 seconds left when the ball was inbounded, against a team that has established it has no quit in it – this may have been the most inspiring L.A. walkoff since … well, you’ve got Kirk Gibson’s home run in 1988, Alec Martinez’ Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Kings in 2014, Robert Horry’s shot to beat Sacramento in the 2002 Western Conference Finals and Tyus Edney going the length of the floor for UCLA against Missouri in 1995. Not too many others leap to mind.

Not to brag, but I wrote it last summer, the day the trade went down:

This is what the Lakers should be doing. It’s part of their DNA … (It) tells their fans and their city that this franchise still means business, even if there is still reason to question their front office structure.”

Nobody is questioning it now, of course. Moments like this – and in fact a season like this, elongated as it has been – have created a collective amnesia about those seven seasons in the playoff desert, those years when we sometimes weren’t sure exactly what the Lakers stood for beyond the gauzy memories of the past.

Games and series like this remind us of what that franchise does stand for. And there is but one regret about this particular buzzer-beater.

“The one thing I wish A.D. had tonight with the shot that he made, I wish we were playing at Staples,” LeBron James said. “I mean, we miss our fans so much. And I can only imagine. It probably would have blew the roof off Staples Center, A.D. hitting that shot tonight in Staples with our crowd. I would have loved for him to have that moment, because I know what it felt like for me.”

James’ reference was to Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference finals, when he hit a 25-footer with no time left, at home, to give Cleveland a 96-95 win over an Orlando team led by current Laker teammate Dwight Howard. But I suppose we should stop that comparison right there, because Orlando won that series in six (en route to losing in the Finals to the, um, Lakers).

Davis wanted this type of pressure, and this type of responsibility. That’s why he forced his way out of New Orleans. The Pelicans got to the second round once while he was there, but there was no assurance that it was going to get any better.

“Just because his teams haven’t been good enough to reach this moment (before now) doesn’t mean that he’s not that caliber of player,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We saw that tonight. No surprise (to) me. No surprise (to) our whole group.”

There were no guarantees in L.A., either, when he arrived. But Davis teaming up with James provided the 1-2 punch that enabled Rob Pelinka to fill in around them, and the general manager has gone from presumed doofus to an Executive of the Year candidate – and I’d assume inquiries about his ring size – as a result.

The shot Davis made Sunday night was similar to one he took in the Lakers’ last pre-pandemic game, a three-pointer in front of the visitors bench with time running out against Brooklyn on March 10. That one he missed, in a 104-102 loss.

“LeBron will tell you,” Davis recalled. “I mean, probably the first four days I was like, ‘Damn, I should have made that shot. I’ve got to make that shot.’ He said, ‘You’re fine, you’re fine.’

“But I put more pressure on myself than anybody. I feel like every shot I take is supposed to go in, and I have enough confidence in my shot to make those type of plays.”

This one, he acknowledged, was the biggest of his career, and his first buzzer-beater for a victory. Again, that’s why he’s here.

“When I left (New Orleans) I just wanted to compete for a championship, and I know that moments like this come with it, especially in L.A., the biggest market in basketball,” he said.

It’s part of the Lakers legacy. And so is this: The Lakers wore their “Mamba Black” uniforms Sunday night, and Vogel was caught on the telecast telling his team it was a “Mamba shot,” one that Kobe Bryant would hit.

“We just play a little different” in those jerseys,” Davis said. “Our swagger is a little different. Every time we put on those jerseys, we’re representing him.

“Coach made sure we knew that in the huddle. He said, ‘Look at the jerseys you have on. He would have made big-time plays. So it’s time for us to make big-time plays.’ “

Done.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

 

 

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Kiszla: Yes, the Nuggets got punked by Lakers and NBA refs, but whining won’t win the series

The Nuggets got punked. By King James. And by NBA refs.

Cry foul into a crying towel, if you want. Whining about life (or the refs) not being fair won’t get Denver anywhere but a one-way ticket out of the playoffs.

After getting dunked on and dissed during a 126-114 loss in Game 1 on Friday in the Western Conference Finals, it’s obvious that the league regards the Nuggets as little more than props in this Lake Show, starring James and Anthony Davis, who hammered Denver with 37 points.

It was so ugly and frustrating the entire fourth quarter stunk like garbage time.

“I’m not going to sit here and blame it on the refs. That’s not what I’m doing,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “We’ve got to play through it and earn their respect.”

In 2020, when life’s not fair, in any way, it’s easy to think the world is conspiring against us. But think that way and it’s nearly impossible to overcome. The refs did the Nuggets no favors in this L. But Murray didn’t whine after the game. He’s a winner.

Lobby the refs all you want. But beg for their mercy? That’s not how it works in this league. Crying foul gets an up-and-coming team nowhere.

Yes, the Lakers attempted two dozen foul shots in the second quarter alone, when Los Angeles took control of the game, with a big assist from a very friendly whistle.

“They went to the foul line 24 times in one quarter. Twenty-four times in a quarter, which is an extremely high number, on pace for 100,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who watched the refs with the same disbelieving eyes as many fans back in Denver.

There is Sistine Chapel artistry to the way James plays basketball, but when he lowers shoulders that are hard as anvils on a drive to a basket, a defender would have an easier time giving a hug to a bull in Pamplona than slowing down the King.

With the Nuggets employing their classic rope-a-dope strategy, L.A. blew them out of the Magic Kingdom with a 17-1 start to the second quarter. Maybe the worst moment in the period, at least in the eyes of Denver fans, was when LeBron made a dent in Murray, hit a shot and was given a free throw, as well.

Malone formally protested, demanding a video review by the refs. I get the idea of standing up for your guys. But you ain’t going to win that battle against the King. He who has the rings gets the calls.

Malone’s objection? Denied. Bron sank the free throw to put the Lakers up 56-41 with six minutes, 25 seconds, remaining in the first half.

If Malone is going to complain about refs showing James too much respect, I’m afraid he is going to be miserable for as long as it lasts. And it won’t last long.

Or as analyst Charles Barkley punked Nuggets Nation on the TNT telecast prior to opening tip: “I don’t even know if they can make it a series … I tell you what, America. Lakers in five!”

Bottom line: The refs didn’t beat the Nuggets.

Here’s what did: The Lakers shot way too often from point-blank range, taking great glee in slamming Denver with don’t-mess-with-us dunks. L.A. scored 54 points in the paint.

“We were giving up layups after scored baskets ourselves,” Malone said. “To me that indicates our sense of urgency to get back was not remotely anywhere close to where it needed to be.”

Belying his sweet Big Honey reputation, there’s a quietly stubborn competitiveness deeply embedded in the DNA of center Nikola Jokic. He won’t back down against the Lakers, as his 11 points during the opening 11 minutes of the first quarter reassured us all.

The problem? L.A. can send big bodies in waves at Joker, from JaVale McGee to Dwight Howard. This series is going to leave a dent.

If Denver is going to have any shot against the Lakers, Murray is going to have to take it. He needs to average at least 25 points per night. He scored 21 in Game 1. But it didn’t matter, because starters Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant and Gary Harris came up painfully small, shooting a meek 7-of-23 from the field.

After only four quarters in this best-of-seven series, the Nuggets are in a tough spot.

And guess what?

The refs aren’t going to bail Denver out.

Not only has Malone kept this team together when hope appeared gone, but he has also cracked the most memorable soundbites heard in the Nuggets camp since the prime of Doug Moe.

On the eve of this series, Malone quipped: “We petitioned the league to see if we could start the series down 3-1, save everybody a lot of time.”

The Nuggets have made us all believe that impossible is nothing. But go down 3-1 to the Lakers and it will be all over except the told-ya-so cackling by Sir Charles Barkley.

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Whicker: Nuggets make history, Clippers flunk chemistry

Fourteen months after it was declared, the Basketball Battle of L.A. is over.

The Lakers won without firing a shot. It was easier to watch the Clippers miss theirs.

Sure, it was conceivable that the Clippers wouldn’t win the NBA title, since they still haven’t been to the Western Conference Finals in 50 years of occasionally trying.

What nobody suspected is that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers’ prize signings of July 2019, would be spectators at their own demise.

The Clippers’ house of assumptions disappeared into a Florida sinkhole Tuesday. They were even more fragile in their 104-89 Game 7 loss to the remarkable Denver Nuggets than they were in Games 5 and 6, when they were blown out by a total of 47 points in the two second halves. They lost the third and fourth quarters by 17 this time.

They played without a theme, failed to finish maybe a dozen 2-footers, and accepted their fate with few bangs and no whimpers.

You can only conclude that they lost to a better team. If you are suffering major fan remorse over the fact that the Clippers won’t play the Lakers in the Western final,  think how the Lakers must feel.


Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) scores against the Denver Nuggets during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“We had great shots all night,” coach Doc Rivers said. “I still didn’t think we trusted each other. Denver went through stretches like that, too. But they just kept playing. You could see us trusting less and less.

“On nights like that you hope you can lean on your defense. Even though numbers say we’re a good defensive team, we just never realized that from our group.”

The Clippers looked like a team that failed to plan, which means they essentially planned to fail.

They never established a thing offensively. The Nuggets roped-a-doped Leonard and made sure they didn’t foul him. Of all the statistical wreckage, the ugliest for L.A. was the total of free throw attempts by their best players. George had one, Leonard none.

That’s far worse than combining to miss 28 of 38 field goal attempts, which they also did. Leonard had averaged 7.8 FTAs in the previous 12 playoff games.

The Clippers were down by 13 in the fourth quarter, still with time, when Leonard found Nikola Jokic, and his four fouls, guarding him. Instead of taking him to the paint, Leonard passed off to Marcus Morris, whose first-quarter touch had long deserted him.

George was even worse. After JaMychal Green’s dunk attempt ricocheted into the backcourt, George fetched it and then threw it away. It took the Clippers seven-and-a-half minutes to get their first field goal in the fourth quarter, and that was with Jokic on the bench, nursing fouls. It barely mattered: Jokic had already written a triple-double across the sky: 16 points, 22 rebounds, 13 assists.

“We just got cold,” George said. “We tried to make them make turnovers and they did a good job of playing right through that.”

Defensively the Clippers continued to double-team Jokic, and Murray raged for 25 first-half points on 11-for-17 shooting. The best passers, and indeed the best players, are too good to double-team. They’ve seen that gambit all their lives. They certainly have no trouble with the obligatory doubles the Clippers were throwing out there, with inactive hands and weak rotations. The Clippers never even made Denver consider a Plan B.

Now the Nuggets prep for the Lakers, with Game 1 on Friday. They are the first NBA team to wipe out two 3-1 deficits in the same playoff season. This was also the fourth seven-game series in their past two seasons. Jokic has earned international praise for his extraordinary passing, but he has teammates who share his wavelength. They move confidently to the sweetest spots.

The Clippers, with plenty of garbage time to hone their spin, said that was the ultimate difference.

“We need to get smarter,” Leonard said. “We need to build some chemistry. When you’ve played together for a while, they know the exact places where everybody is, and it makes it easier.”

The problem with that, of course, is that the Lakers were asked to become a supergroup just as quickly. They came together as smoothly as Blind Faith.

Rivers pointed out that Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley all missed significant time in the bubble itself, and somehow that bled into their conditioning.

“We had guys asking to come out in the middle of Game 7,” Rivers said, “and I had to do it.”

But it wasn’t the Game 7 that was promised, two Julys ago.

“This was not a championship-or-bust year,” George said before walking away. His words, at least, were shooting 50%.

 

 

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Clippers vs. Nuggets live updates: Game 6 from the NBA bubble

The Los Angeles Clippers face the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals at 10 a.m., Sunday (ESPN). The Clippers lead the series 3-2.

We’ll have live updates from pregame through the final postgame press conference, featuring sports reporters from the Southern California News Group and the Denver Post.

A Twitter List by JHWreporter

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Clippers vs. Nuggets live updates: Game 5 from the NBA bubble

The Los Angeles Clippers face the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals at 3:30 p.m., Wednesday (TNT). The Clippers lead the series 3-1.

We’ll have live updates from pregame through the final postgame press conference, featuring sports reporters from the Southern California News Group and the Denver Post.

A Twitter List by JHWreporter

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Clippers’ Marcus Morris Sr. relishes time with wife and son in the bubble

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. — Marcus Morris Sr. and Marcus Morris Jr. were reunited in the NBA bubble on Thursday — a win before the win for the Clippers’ hard-nosed, big-hearted forward, who contributed some stellar defense and 18 points to the Clippers’ 120-97 victory over Denver in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

“It was amazing,” Morris said of being reunited with his young son and wife, Amber, who is expecting the couple’s second son at the end of the month. “That was one thing that was missing here.”

The two additional members of Morris’ family are among 30 Clippers’ family members who are expected to complete quarantine and join players in the bubble by Friday.

Morris said with his wife expecting so soon, she and their son will stay only until Tuesday — but even the short visit means a ton to the 31-year-old Philadelphian, who said he insisted they drive from their house in Boca Raton to the bubble as soon as a doctor cleared it.

“I haven’t seen them actually in three months because I was in L.A. with the team and doing my quarantine there, so I wasn’t able to see them,” Morris said. “And she’s not doing too much, just laying up. And I had to see my family.”

Before heading to the bubble, Morris spent time with his twin brother Markieff — of the Lakers — in L.A., playing video games and some one-on-one, as well as spending time with his sister-in-law and his niece, Jyzelle. In the bubble, the Morris brothers find each other for meals and conversation.

On Thursday, Morris was thrilled to have a few quality moments with his son, too. Prior to the game, Amber handed young Marcus to his dad on the court for a pregame embrace.

“Ah, man. It was special,” Morris said. “That’s my first child. I grew up without a father, so I felt like I was made for fatherhood and I enjoy it, man.”

Morris said soon after arriving in the bubble that he plans to leave for the birth of his second son.

“I have another boy coming and I think it’s a big privilege for me, other than playing this game of basketball,” he said Thursday, tipping his hat to Amber. “I’m excited, she’s a great mother. I’m the lucky one to have her.”

Some VIPs in the gym tonight, including a special fan of Marcus Morris Sr.’s. (📹: @kylegoon) pic.twitter.com/ybDSrItOEa

— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) September 4, 2020

How nice is it to have family in the bubble?

Marcus Morris Sr.: “It’s amazing.” pic.twitter.com/RvwChpGyXz

— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) September 4, 2020

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Clippers vs. Mavericks Game 6 playoff updates from NBA beat reporters

The Clippers’ quest to bring a championship back to Los Angeles continues tonight with Game 6 of the first round series against the Dallas Mavericks in Florida.

Mavericks (2-3) vs. Clippers (3-2)

When: 12:30 p.m. PST Sunday

Where: Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

TV: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, ESPN

Can’t watch the game? Follow our live updates feed below.

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Alexander: Even in a bubble there are distractions for the Lakers

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) controls the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, left, is congratulated by Los Angeles Lakers’ JR Smith, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis, left, shakes hands with LeBron James as James goes to the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Gary Trent Jr. (2) guards Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard (39) battles for the ball with Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic, center, during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic (27) shakes hands with head coach Terry Stotts as Nurkic heads to the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic, center, drives past Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) and Danny Green (14) celebrate after a play against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) drives against Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic (27) during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) looks for a way past Portland Trail Blazers’ Jaylen Hoard (6) and Gary Trent Jr. (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic (27) defends against Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony (00) falls as he battles with Los Angeles Lakers’ Danny Green (14) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony (00) falls as he battles with Los Angeles Lakers’ Danny Green (14) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony gets up after a fall against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Danny Green (14) scores against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic (27) shoots against Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel greets Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James during a timeout in the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) drives past Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Danny Green (14) defends against Portland Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony (00) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James directs the play during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel applauds his team during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) gets past Portland Trail Blazers’ Gary Trent Jr. (2) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ JaVale McGee (7) drives against Portland Trail Blazers’ Mario Hezonja (44) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) battles for the ball with Portland Trail Blazers’ Mario Hezonja during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) celebrate after a play against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Mario Hezonja (44) scores against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard (0) looks for help as he is defended by Los Angeles Lakers’ JR Smith (21) and Alex Caruso (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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Under normal playoff circumstances, focus is everything. Coaches devour video for hours, players lock in on their opponent, and nothing else matters.

So here’s the great irony about the NBA’s playoff bubble: The fewer the so-called “distractions,” the more distracting it’s been.

And under these abnormal playoff circumstances, with the teams hermetically sealed not only from a pandemic but, to date, from their families and friends and pets but unable to escape the turbulence of society, the team that has dealt with so much already this season may have the edge.

Advantage, Lakers? It certainly was Saturday night.

They closed out their first-round series with a 131-122 victory, against an undermanned Portland team that had nothing to lose and threw everything they had at the Lakers. This, after an unplanned three-day hiatus in which many of these players spent little time actually thinking about basketball while discussing among themselves how this platform could be an even larger agent of social change.

Other players on other teams might find their attention split. The Lakers should be used to it by now in a season that has bounced from one moment of turbulence to another.

“I said this (Friday), we have a Ph.D in handling adversity, and we’ve been through so much as a group this year,” coach Frank Vogel said on a Zoom conference before Saturday’s game. “And we have been able to rely on those experiences as a group throughout the year, to hopefully take our minds off of what we’re doing because of what’s happening, and (to) center and refocus.

“This is just the next in a long list of things that has happened to our group this year. So I’m confident that we’ll be able to get back to where we were.”

A recap of this doctorate level course in making the best of things:

• They found themselves in a bubble of sorts in the exhibition season in Shanghai, China, after Houston general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting protesters in Hong Kong outraged the Chinese government. The NBA still isn’t totally back in China’s good graces, but at least the Lakers got out of the country unscathed.

That seems so long ago, doesn’t it?

• Then came the end of January and the death of Kobe Bryant. Not only the Lakers organization but all of Southern California treated it like the loss of a member of the family, and in a sense it was.

• Then, as a memorable season was about to kick into playoff gear, it stopped. From March to July, there was no certainty there would be a championship awarded. The establishment of the bubble seemed to be a solution, but sometimes you just have to be careful what you wish for.

• And as of this past Wednesday night there still was no certainty there would be a championship awarded, after the Milwaukee Bucks players said they wouldn’t play that afternoon and a rash of other postponements followed in multiple sports. Meetings and debates and more meetings took place over the past few days, with James playing a significant role as one of the league’s elder statesmen, and an upshot was NBA owners agreeing to actions supporting the players’ emphasis on social justice.

One of those actions involves making the league’s arenas available as voting sites this November. The Lakers confirmed before Saturday’s game that Staples Center would be among those sites, with the cooperation of AEG, the arena owner, and the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

“I pick my battles,” James said. “And I kind of listen and see what’s going on and things of that nature, then I voice my opinion and what I believe is the best.

“You got to understand that for me personally, it’s not just about me, because in this league it’s about the other 300 plus guys that I got to look out for as well, same way that the OGs and the vets looked out for guys like myself, (Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh) when all of us came into the league as well.”

His point: There will be an NBA long after he’s gone, and he wants to see the guys who are youngsters now taking the initiative after he’s retired.

“I just want to leave it in a better place as much as I can when I’m done,” he said.

Saturday’s games probably could have been termed the NBA’s restart restart. While the three-day hiatus resulted in further conversations about social justice issues, it also provided a necessary deep breath for players who have been in the bubble for what must now seem like several forevers. The Lakers got to Orlando July 9 to begin their quarantine, and they were one of the last teams to get there.

“There’s a lot of tension in this bubble,” guard Danny Green said on a Zoom call Friday. “We’ve been here without our families for two months, locked up in a small area – I shouldn’t say locked up, but we’re confined to a very small radius. Guys get a little antsy, guys get a little tense, emotional.”

It has an effect, especially when you aren’t playing well and your only connection to the outside world is a social media app filled with people ripping you. “If you’re not playing well, as an individual or a group, it’ll get dark in here quick,” Green said.

And you don’t have to be playing badly to feel the walls closing in, either.

“I’ve had numerous days and nights when I’ve thought of leaving the bubble. I think everyone has, including you guys,” James said Saturday night, half kiddingly, pointing at the reporters on site in Orlando. “I don’t think there’s one person that has not had a mind to say, ‘Oh, I gotta get the hell out of here.’ “

Under those circumstances, the Lakers should have been even more motivated to close things out. Players on teams that reach the second round are allowed to have family members join them in the bubble after a quarantine period.

“I think that will lift everyone’s spirits,” Vogel said.

Really, all Vogel needed for a pregame speech was one word: “Families.”

Read more about Alexander: Even in a bubble there are distractions for the Lakers This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

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Lakers vs. Trail Blazers Game 5 playoff updates from NBA beat reporters

LeBron James and the Lakers look to close out the first round series Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland will play without leading scorer Damian Lillard (knee injury.)

Lakers (3-1) vs. Trail Blazers (1-3)

When: 6 p.m. PST Saturday

Where: Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

TV: TNT

Can’t watch the game? Follow our live updates feed below.

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