The Los Angeles Lakers traveled to the Moda Center for a primetime matchup on TNT against the Portland Trailblazers. Coming off of a victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, Luke Walton and the Lakers were looking to make it two in a row against another struggling Western conference contender.
Forward Luol Deng was ruled out for Thursday’s game after suffering a biceps injury, which activated Metta World Peace for the contest. Franchise player Damian Lillard also returned for the Trailblazers, bringing back more scoring alongside C.J. McCollum.
The lineup for the Lakers featured D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Timofey Mozgov. Coach Terry Stotts countered with Lillard, McCollum, Moe Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee.
The Lakers haven’t done well on the road against Portland of late and showed signs of youth early on. After a few questionable turnovers, the execution started to produce for the team.
The offense ran through Randle, who was looking to exploit Aminu. He hit a mid-range shot as the shot clock expired, along with setting up his teammates with two assists. The frontcourt of the Lakers came ready to play, with Mozgov adding some early scoring.
After knocking down a mid-range shot, he slammed home a dunk and backed down Plumlee for a three-point play. Along with his five rebounds, Mozgov set a physical tone.
With Lillard returning, the Trailblazers’ offense started off hot. Lillard himself knocked down two threes for 10 early points strictly from offensive execution. Plumlee was able to knock down some easy buckets in the paint early on, while also racking up three rebounds and two assists in the first eight minutes of the game.
The two teams battled back and forth on both ends of the court, playing in a physical way. Russell was able to capitalize on the physicality, knocking down six of seven free throws in the first quarter.
When talking about capitalizing on free throws this season, sixth man Lou Williams has led the way. He drew a foul on a three-point attempt, giving the Lakers 15 attempts in the first quarter (13 made).
After one quarter of play, the Trailblazers held a 29-24 lead.
The bench of the Lakers came out to play in the start of the second quarter. Thomas Robinson and Jordan Clarkson each led the way, scoring off of turnovers. The Lakers seemed to have a sense of comfort in the second quarter, upon missing some open shots early in the game.
The Lakers turned it up defensively as well, with two steals early on. Ingram and Tarik Black each blocked former Laker Ed Davis on two dunk attempts.
Williams followed up with a three-pointer from the corner, while Ingram knocked one down from the top of key to give the Lakers a 13-0 run to start the second quarter. Robinson came out with a certain sense of energy, in a return against his former team.
The Lakers knocked down eight of their first 10 shots, outscoring the Blazers 22-8 to start the second quarter. During the NBA on TNT telecast, Ingram was putting forth one of the best games of his career.
His two early threes gave him confidence, while he scored two buckets in the paint in the second quarter, showing some toughness. Clarkson led the bench alongside Williams, as he collected two early steals and 10 points.
With less than three minutes in the second quarter, the Lakers kept up their defensive intensity. They capitalized off of the Trailblazers’ lazy passes, creating seven turnovers and seven points off of turnovers.
Towards the end of the second quarter, Young started to feel it offensively after a slow start, scoring five consecutive points. However, McCollum and Lillard each knocked down three-pointers to cut the Lakers lead.
The Lakers outscored the Trailblazers 38-24 in the second quarter, taking a 62-53 lead into halftime. Clarkson led the way with 13 points, while Russell (2/7 FGs) and Ingram (3/5 FGs) each had 10 points.
A key storyline all season has been the struggles for the Lakers to start the second half and it would be no different on Thursday. The Lakers had some late rotations on defense, which led to three early threes for the Blazers in the third quarter. With just over seven minutes remaining, the game was tied at 66.
The youthful team continues to struggle with their leads in the second quarter, with a sense of complacency on defense. The second unit of the Lakers responded well, stretching the Lakers lead back out to five.
Halfway through the third quarter, the bench unit had 33 points. While the bench unit always brings a scoring edge, they also brought it defensively with constant pressure. They had a renewed sense of effort compared to the starting unit.
Black had a beautiful helpside block on Aminu’s drive to the rim, while he and Robinson controlled the glass. Clarkson continued his consistent scoring, knocking down another three-pointer on a mini step back, giving him 19 (7/11 FGs) for the contest.
Meanwhile, Lillard continued to be a playmaker as the game continued on, connecting with Ed Davis for his seventh assist of the game. Their defense also created some turnovers, leading to four straight fast break points.
Lillard (17 points), McCollum (18 points) and Plumlee (14 points) led the way for the Trailblazers, as the rest of their team had less than 25 points.
For the Lakers, Randle continued to show his play-making ability, attempting to get a second consecutive triple double (nine points, seven rebounds and five assists). Upon knocking down three out of four free throws on back-to-back players, the score was tied 84-84 at the end of three quarters.
Young started off the scoring in the fourth quarter, knocking down his third three of the game on a great pick by Randle. The Kentucky alumnus followed with a nice crossover on his way to the basket, converting a three-point play on a foul by Davis.
Russell knocked down his seventh and eighth free throw of the game, giving the Lakers a 92-89 lead. Evan Turner provided the Trailblazers with scoring in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 15 points thus far in the final frame.
His spinning drive to the basket gave the lead back to the Trailblazers, as they had a one-point lead with 6:39 remaining in the game.
With Lillard guarding him, Russell asked for the ball deep in the post, converting back-to-back fadeaways from the paint. With a two-point lead, Russell then used a pick to create space and draw a foul on Lillard. He then knocked down his ninth and 10th and 11th free throw of the night, giving the Lakers a 103-99 lead with less than six minutes in the game.
After a McCollum float and Williams missed three, Plumlee tapped out a 50/50 rebound for a three-pointer for McCollum, forcing Walton to call a timeout. With four minutes left in the game, the Lakers trailed by a score of 107-103.
McCollum knocked down a corner jump shot, giving the Blazers a 10-0 run late in the fourth quarter. The Lakers started to unravel late in the fourth, failing to score a bucket in a four-minute span.
After holding another double-digit lead, the youth began to show once again for the Lakers. Trailing by seven points with a minute remaining, the Lakers were on their way to their 26th loss of the season.
The Blazers finished the game on a 19-6 run, capturing the home victory. The final score was 118-109, as the Lakers record fell to 13-26. The Trailblazers achieved a franchise record ninth straight victory over the Lakers.
Russell led the Lakers in scoring with 22 points, four rebounds and two assists. Randle had another all around game, with 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists.