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Lakers advance to Western Conference semi-finals as playoffs resume following player boycott

Many players arrived at the arenas wearing Black Lives Matter slogans on their t-shirts.

Players taking a knee before the game.
Players taking a knee before the game.
Image: Ashley Landis

THE LOS ANGELES Lakers advanced to the Western Conference semi-finals after eliminating the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round as the NBA play-offs resumed on Saturday.

Three days after the play-offs were paused when players went on strike in protest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin last week, the action resumed after the league agreed to a series of measures to help social justice efforts.

Players again knelt before the national anthem and many arrived at the arenas wearing Black Lives Matter slogans on their t-shirts, with Lakers star LeBron James’ asking ‘Do you understand now?’.

On the court, the three games produced two eliminations from the first round of the play-offs.

The undermanned Trail Blazers, missing injured all-star guard Damian Lillard, trailed the Lakers 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and despite 36 points from CJ McCollum and 27 from Carmelo Anthony, they were sent home with a 131-122 defeat in game five.

Anthony Davis and James ultimately proved too much for Portland, with Davis scoring 43 points while James recorded a triple-double of 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Orlando Magic were also eliminated after a game five as Eastern Conference first seeds Milwaukee Bucks ran out 118-104 winners.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds but the MVP candidate said the Wisconsin-based team getting to speak to Blake’s father during the suspension was more important to him than a play-off performance.

“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,” Antetokounmpo said at his post-match press conference shown by the Bucks.

“Obviously, there’s going to be games that you come in and score 30, 35, 50 or whatever, but that you’re going to remember. The way we felt, we’re going to remember the way we felt for the rest of our lives.”

In the night’s other game, the Houston Rockets moved one game away from clinching the series after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-80 in game five.

James Harden scored 31 points as Houston took a 3-2 series lead.

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