The Los Angeles Lakers took a step forward in their hopes to capture banner No. 17 Saturday night, as the purple and gold routed fourth-seed Houston 119-96, advancing to the Western Conference finals.
It is the first time in 10 years the Lakers have advanced past the second round. The last time they did this, the late Kobe Bryant led L.A. to a championship.
“It’s [an] honor for me to wear purple and gold,” LeBron James told ESPN after the game. “For us we just try to continue the legacy and to play great basketball for our fans back in L.A. and all over the world.”
Los Angeles came out swinging in the first quarter, leading as many as 22 points and never looked back. James scored 29 points and added 11 rebounds with seven assists on the night.
The Lakers shot 51.4% from downtown and 52.7% from the field. The purple and gold have not been great from the 3-point line, ranking 21st in team 3-point percentage during the regular season and the postseason according to NBC Sports.
Los Angeles' excellent shooting is a welcome change for fans, as the Lakers shooting troubles also carried on into the bubble and have caused doubts among the fanbase if the team was able to compete for a championship.
Los Angeles has struggled all season long to find consistent scorers besides James and Anthony Davis, with many believing that strong play from the Lakers' supporting cast will be key in the next round.
“When those guys are collapsed on and they kick it out, they trust us and we have to make those shots,” forward Kyle Kuzma told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt after the game. “For this series we shot it pretty well and we just gotta continue to make those shots … and … be confident in ourselves.”
Kuzma finished third in team scoring, ending the night with 17 points off the bench.
All Lakers starters scored double-digit points, beginning with power forward Markieff Morris who ended up with 16 points, three rebounds and three assists. Morris was particularly strong from the 3-point line Saturday, hitting all four of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Lakers shooting guard Danny Green, who was a member of last year’s champion in Toronto, finished the game with 14 points, four rebounds and an assist. Green ended the night hitting four out of his six attempts from downtown after playing 25 minutes.
Green, who has struggled ever since the restart of the season, has played much better in the postseason with this series in particular, scoring 10 or more points in three out of the five games in this series.
All in all, Los Angeles' efficient production from its supporting cast was so effective that Davis, who has averaged 26 points on the year, was held to a minuscule role, only scoring 13 points in the series-clinching affair. Davis was 4-for-9 from the field.
The Lakers will play either the Clippers or Nuggets in the next round.