The Los Angeles Lakers took a dominant 135-115 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 4 and are now just one victory away from advancing to the Western Conference semifinals.
The game was a poignant moment in franchise history as they commemorated Kobe Bryant’s memory during a week dedicated to the NBA legend. Tributes started pouring in on Sunday, which marked Bryant’s first birthday since he died in a helicopter crash in January together with his daughter Gianna and seven other people.
With the Lakers then facing the Trail Blazers on Mamba Day, Trevor Ariza paid his own tribute to Bryant while still rooting for his teammates, according to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan:
Ariza watched the game wearing his own No. 8 Bryant Lakers jersey, even as he rooted tirelessly for the Blazers.
Ariza’s gesture might seem bold to some. The forward’s need to honor Bryant, his former Laker teammate with whom he won the NBA title in 2009, is definitely understandable.
But the fact he wore a Lakers jersey while watching his current teammates edge towards playoff elimination might not sit well with some Blazers fans. Especially considering he cannot support Portland in Orlando after opting out of the NBA restart due to family issues.
But the 15-year veteran supported Portland vociferously on Monday night and even tried to find a way to join the team in the bubble after his 30-day visitation with his oldest son ended:
“I asked if there was any way,” Ariza said, “but the league wouldn’t allow it. They made that clear when I opted out.”
Ariza spent two seasons with the Lakers after he arrived at Staples Center in a trade with the Orlando Magic involving Brian Cook and Maurice Evans in November 2007.
James felt Bryant’s presence during Game 4
L.A. truly embodied Bryant’s Mamba Mentality on Monday in their best performance so far in the Orlando bubble. And LeBron James said he could feel the late Lakers legend’s presence on the court as he led the team to the Game 4 victory, scoring 30 points and adding 10 assists.
Interestingly, the Lakers took a 24-8 lead over Portland late in the first quarter, a score symbolizing Bryant’s two jersey numbers he wore during his career.
“I was like, OK, he’s here in the building,” James noted following the game. “It was a beautiful night for our franchise.”
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