The Los Angeles Lakers might have taken a series on the Portland Trail Blazers with their win in Game 3, but they were not entirely happy with their 116-108 victory.
L.A. shot a miserable 65% from the free throw line which kept Portland in the game pretty much until late in the fourth quarter, prompting the team to hit the practice court with extra shooting drills.
“Everybody made 100 free throws. Hopefully, we’ll shoot better at the free-throw line [Monday] night,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said after the team’s latest practice.
The Lakers have not been great from the foul line this season, ranking 28th before the NBA restart at 73%. That has dipped to 68% in the first-round series with Portland, the worst of all the teams remaining in the Orlando bubble.
Considering the Lakers go to the charity stripe 28 times a game, fourth-most thus far in the playoffs, converting is of particular importance.
Surprisingly, Lakers leaders LeBron James and Anthony Davis have struggled with converting their free throws the most. Among players who are attempting at least three free throws per game in the playoffs, Davis ranks sixth-worst with a 64%. James is making 69% of his free throws, eight-worst.
Their poor free-throw shooting made a difference in Game 1 against the Trail Blazers. Both Davis and James failed to score from the foul line shortly after Portland reclaimed the lead halfway through the fourth quarter. The Blazers then went on a late run to secure the win.
Davis, who averages 84% from the line this season, missed half of his 14 free throws in Game 3. However, he still ended the night with 29 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, recording most of them after halftime. L.A. came out for the second half determined, once again overwhelming Portland’s offense with their defensive effort.
And Vogel has been satisfied with his team’s intensity on that end of the floor. But he noted L.A. cannot become complacent despite holding the Trail Blazers, the hottest offense of the seeding games, to below 100 points average, the lowest of all teams in the playoffs.
“We’re competing at a high level on that end of the floor, but these two guards and the whole team is dynamic and electric offensively,” he said. “We’ve just got to compete and ask our guys to do the best they can. So far it’s been enough, but we’ve got to continue to bring that type of intensity and focus.”
Portland will certainly be uber-motivated to claim a victory in Game 4 and tie the series. But Lakers guard JR Smith does not feel extra pressure in what could be the crucial moment of the first-round showdown.
“Every game is important and every possession is important,” he said. “For some of our younger guys this is their second playoff win, so we’ve just got to keep telling them this is only one small step to the promised land.”
Vogel: Bryant’s death still tough to handle
L.A. faces the Blazers on Aug. 24 declared as “Kobe Bryant Day” in Orange County and Los Angeles. The Lakers will honor the late five-time NBA champion’s memory by wearing the special “Black Mamba” jersey during Game 4 against Portland.
Vogel said the death of Bryant, his daughter Gigi, and seven other passengers in a helicopter crash in Calabasas remains a painful memory for him, his players, and staff. But he thinks L.A.’s mindset will not be much different on Monday because the Lakers legend’s spirit has been with the team ever since the tragic accident.
“It’s just a tough thing for all of us to handle and go through,” Vogel said. “It’s been important to us all season to embody what he stood for and represented and to exhibit that Mamba Mentality. Maybe it’ll be exemplified some [Monday], but it’s really been with us every step of the way.”
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