The Los Angeles Lakers attempted to make it three consecutive wins at Staples Center on Tuesday, as they faced off against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. This contest marked the second meeting between these two teams this season, with the Trailblazers capturing the opening victory.
Terry Stotts and his team traveled to Los Angeles, fresh off of a one-point overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons. Although his team has a disappointing 16-23 record thus far into the season, they sat in the eighth slot in the Western conference standings.
Luke Walton’s squad entered Tuesday’s contest with a 15-26 record, just two games behind their opponents. The Lakers sent out their typical lineup this season, with D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Luol Deng, Julius Randle and Timofey Mozgov.
Stotts countered with Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee.
Both teams came out aggressively on the offensive end, attempting to get their teams started on the right path. A certain sense of physicality existed on the defensive end, as both teams had a chippy edge on both ends of the floor.
Lillard, who seems to have regained his health following a recent absence on the court, took on a playmaking role against the slower Russell. He and Plumlee executed constant pick and rolls, leaving Mozgov in difficult trailing scenarios.
Although he had two early assists, he started the game 0-for-5 from the field, including three missed three-point attempts. With his lack of scoring, McCollum took it to Young, with eight early points.
Upon falling behind quickly by six points, the Lakers scoring got started for the night thanks in part to the play of Deng. The Sudan product was active from the get go, with nine points and three offensive rebounds. The Trailblazers were forced to call a quick timeout, as the Lakers tied the game 17-17 because of a Young three and Deng jump shot.
With less than four minutes left in the first, the bench mob came into play for both teams. Lou Williams passed up on a contested three, using a strong jab step to explode past Turner for the lay up. Sixth man Evan Turner looked to exploit the smaller matchup against the Lakers, using his post moves to garner some easy buckets.
On the final possession of the first quarter, McCollum drove hard to his left while being guarded by Thomas Robinson and nailed the pull up. That jump shot cut the Lakers lead to one, with a 26-25 lead after one period of play.
The Lakers attacked the glass hard early on, with five offensive rebounds in the first quarter.
The Lakers started the second quarter on a quick 5-0 run, thanks once again to the bench play. Williams used his crossover to his left to hit a drifting three-pointer while Robinson finished a bucket in the paint with is left hand.
While McCollum looked to score on the offensive end, the Lakers continued to expose him defensively. With Robinson posting up, McCollum got caught sleeping on help side and left Williams open for his second three-pointer of the game.
The Trailblazers were able to counter quickly, as Turner once again scored in the paint. With a 35-30 lead, Walton demanded a timeout, showing frustration with the some of the Blazers’ easy buckets in the paint.
The lack of communication on the defensive end was hurting the Lakers, as their rotations were a tad late. While the big men were doing a great job of rotating, no guard was helping the helper, which led to many easy points in the paint.
With seven minutes minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Lakers got a little creative on offense. Randle took a handoff, driving hard to the rim, and used a spin move at the last second to finish in the paint. Upon that scored bucket, all nine Lakers who played in the first half had scored.
While the Lakers were trailing early on, they were able to marginally increase their lead due to proper spacing on the floor. With less than five minutes remaining in the quarter, their lead expanded to 47-41.
However, their lackluster effort on defense continued to be exploited by the Trailblazers. After a made basket, the Blazers rushed down in transition and found Harkless for an open lay up.
In typical fashion this season, the Lakers attempted to not let their defensive woes stop their offensive onslaught. Deng, who was having an active game, was beautifully filling the lanes in transition.
His veteran experience certainly was needed on Tuesday, as he finished off consecutive fast break lay ups on assists from Russell. With less than three minutes, he took a pass on the wing, drove hard and finished with a thunderous one-handed dunk over the Trailblazers’ defense.
Russell continued finding his teammates in the open court, as Walton wanted his team to push the offensive tempo. After a rebound, Russell delivered a full court pass to Mozgov, who slammed it home over three Trailblazers.
Both teams kept going back and forth offensively, eclipsing 50 points with two minutes remaining in the half. Although Young has taken a defensive burden this season, Tuesday was not friendly to him. While guarding McCollum, he was tripped up on three different plays, falling to the floor and showing some signs of pain.
However, Young never lets his offensive game get affected, as he knocked downa corner three on another assist from Russell with a minute left in the half.
On the final possession of the half, Lillard drove hard to the rim, but was blocked by Young out of bounds with three seconds remaining. Going into halftime, the Lakers held a 57-55 lead.
At halftime, Russell was filling up the stat sheet, with four points, five rebounds and six assists.
The Trailblazers started off the second half strong, as their two franchise players quickly scored five consecutive points, giving the Trailblazers a 62-60 lead.
On the other hand, the Lakers had yet another sluggish start to the second half. Russell scratched for the Lakers on his second free throw attempt (two minutes into the half), but the Lakers were shooting a poor 11-for-18 up to that point from the charity stripe.
Halfway through the third quarter, the Trailblazers led the battle in the paint, outscoring the Lakers 34-30, but were losing the turnover battle 8-5.
The game hit a boiling point during the third quarter, as Russell and Lillard had to be separated after a confrontation. While being separated, the two point guards continually were talking to each other, which got Lillard going.
He knocked down back-to-back mid-range shots, giving them a 68-63 lead. After the confrontation, the Lakers seemed to go cold, missing open shots on multiple possessions. The three-point shot, which has carried the Lakers all season, wasn’t falling on Tuesday.
The sluggish second half, which has been a mantra this season, continued on Tuesday. With two minutes remaining in the period, the Lakers trailed by a score of 72-65 and were 3-for-18 from the field in the third quarter. On the night, the team was shooting a combined 7-for-18 from three-point range.
As ugly as it had been for the Lakers, the team only had six turnovers through three quarters. While they weren’t playing carelessly, they just weren’t able to knock down their shots.
McCollum continued his offensive onslaught, driving hard as using his body to create separation on Tarik Black on a bucket in the paint. He then stole the inbounds pass on a careless pass, leading to an Ed Davis bucket.
The shooting guard then took the ball the next possession, using a pick and roll to hit a fading jump shot. That bucket gave him 21 points for the night, his ninth straight game with at least 20 points.
Clarkson missed the final attempt in the quarter, giving the Trailblazers a 78-69 lead going into the final quarter. The third quarter woes continued for Walton’s squad, as they were only able to score 12 points in the quarter, while their opponents put up 23.
The slow start to the second half spilled over into the fourth quarter, as the Lakers were unable to get consistent stops on defense. The Trailblazers opened the fourth quarter on a 10-4 run, opening their lead to 88-73.
Although the team kept executing through their offense, the shots just weren’t falling in. Compared to previous losses, there wasn’t much 1-on-1 play, but rather missed opportunities.
The team continued to miss their free throws, , as even the “free” baskets couldn’t fall in. Their 12-for-22 output was a difficult pill to swallow, while their 37.5 field goal percentage wasn’t cutting it.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, the Lakers still only had 18 points in the second half. The lack of offense allowed the Trailblazers to expand their lead, with a comfortable 92-75 margin with less than six minutes remaining.
The struggles seemed to be contagious, as the Lakers were showing a sluggish body language. They showed signs of life on an Brandon Ingram corner three, but watched it slip away as Lillard was able to convert a three-point play on the next possession.
Both teams emptied out their benches with a few minutes left in the game, as it turned into a lost cause for the Lakers.
When it was all said and done, the Lakers will certainly forget this contest, as they dreadfully lost by a score of 108-87.
Russell finished the game with nine points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals, but he finished the game shooting 4-for-14, including 0-for-7 from the three-point line.
Randle had perhaps his worst performance of the season, finishing with only six points on 2-for-9 shooting, although he did have 10 rebounds.
The Lakers finished the contest by completing 32 of 83 shots, for a 38.6 field goal percentage. Although they only had 10 turnovers for the contest, they finished 14-for-26 from the free throw line.