The Los Angeles Lakers capped a back-to-back preseason stretch against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. Both of these Western Conference rivals will be battling all year to establish themselves as playoff contenders in the dominant Western Conference.
Coming off of an overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, the Lakers were looking to bounce back with conviction. While Byron Scott decided to rest Kobe Bryant for the remainder of the preseason, the team was excited about the return of rookie guard Jordan Clarkson.
The team battled until the final tip against the Suns, lead by Kobe hitting 4 consecutive buckets in the 4th quarter and overtime period. He was taken out in the final minutes by coach Byron Scott to make sure the 36 year old did not exceed his allotted minutes.
Clarkson and guards Wayne Ellington, Ronnie Price and Jeremy Lin their hands full in Ontario for their seventh exhibition game. Stand out stud point guard Damian Lillard continues to move up the ranks as one of the best players in the league. The Blazer’s preseason record was 3-2 entering the game.
The Blazers used their size to their advantage from the opening tip feeding Chris Kaman for an easy dunk for their first bucket. Center Robert Sacre who got the start responded with a 15 footer from the left baseline. Sacre was joined by Carlos Boozer in the front court along with guards Wes Johnson, Ellington, and Price to start. The Lakers fast break defense continued to struggle early on giving up an uncontested alley-oop to Thomas Robinson. On the offensive end, the lack of play-making ability by the guards resorted the Lakers to feed their bigs. Carlos Boozer hit an elbow jump shot with 6:26 to play to make the score 11-6 in favor of Portland. At 4:47 the exciting front court of Julius Randle and Ed Davis checked in. Ronnie Price immediately took it upon himself to hit a long range three pointer. Soon after, Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin entered the game. The two guards pushed the tempo early which resulted in consecutive inside looks. Wes Johnson drove in strong for a contested dunk which earned him a trip to the free throw line. Julius Randle showed off his post game with a baby hook on the right base line. With 2:30 seconds left in the period Ed Davis again made his presence felt defensively with two emphatic blocks inside. Randle continued to do his best Lamar Odom impression scoring on a coast-to-coast lay up and then feeding fellow rookie Clarkson for a layup. Lead by the defensive charge of the Lakers, Jeremy Lin scored two consecutive layups taking his man off the dribble. At the end of one the Lakers lead 26-18.
The second period opened with Clarkson, Lin, Roscoe Smith, Randle, and Davis. Lin continued his aggression early finishing on a left handed layup due to a well timed Davis screen. The Lakers pushed the pace with this unit with Randle, Lin, and Clarkson all capable of bringing up the ball. The rotation on defense was disciplined with this squad and with 8:47 left the Lakers lead 28-23. Coming back from a timeout, Byron Scott drew up a pick and roll with Lin and Davis that allowed Davis to score with good position down low. Damian Lillard didn’t back down to Lin, giving him a nice half spin move and finishing on a fade away from the right elbow. Randle responded with a jumper of his own taking advantage of the soft defense. Smith was aggressive on the boards and converted on an easy layup after an offensive rebound. Half way through the quarter Price, Ellington, Sand Sacre entered the game. With 4:43 left the Lakers lead 36-31 lead by Lin’s seven points off of the bench. Sacre scored again on turnaround jumper from the right baseline soon after he checked in. This allowed Price to hit another three on the following possession as the defense collapsed on Sacre down low. Stout defense then lead to Price running the fast break, finding a slashing Johnson for a two hand jam. Johnson fed off of the momentum of the dunk hitting a jumper with about 90 seconds left in the period. With a minute left Boozer bruised his way inside for his 5th and 6th points giving the Lakers a 45-35 lead. In the final seconds of the quarter Ellington hit a three giving the Lakers a 13 point lead at 50-37.
The Lakers starters took the court for the third quarter. The Blazers attacked early getting to the foul line on a steal and foul for a pair of Will Barton free throws. Sloppiness ensued with consecutive turnovers via a Sacre travel and a Ronnie Price bad pass. Ellington and Sacre got the Lakers out of the turn over slump with a jump shot for each player. Sacre was the first Laker in double digits at 8:40 to go in the third with 10 points. With turnovers being a theme in the third, the Blazers cut their deficit to 11 halfway through the period. With 3:07 left in the quarter Lin and Davis returned to the floor. Lin threw a turnover that lead to a Blazers layup making the score 62-54. With two minutes to go in the period Ellington hit a three to extend the Lakers lead. The Blazers immediately responded with a fast break layup. At the end of three the score was 66-58.
The Lakers started the final period with Lin, Clarkson, Randle, Davis and Smith. Clarkson looked shaky turning the ball over on a drive to the bucket. He made up for it on the other end by stopping a fast break with a steal that lead to two Laker’s free throw attempts. A hustle play by Davis after a Smith missed free throw lead to a Lin jump shot with nine minutes to go in the game. Randle continued to have a good game after scoring his seventh and eighth points on an inside bucket. The other Lakers rookie, Clarkson, then scored on a jump shot extending the Laker’s lead to 12. Davis continued his tenacious defense with another block that set up Randle for two consecutive hoops. Halfway through the quarter Randle 14 points and seven rebounds. With 5:45 left in the game, Randle hit his third consecutive shot from the outside and his 10th point in the quarter. Clarkson took it upon himself soon after to make some noise of his own taking his man off the dribble and finishing on a smooth reverse layup. After the nice move by the rookie, Ellington replaced him with four minutes left. Lin and Davis continued to work well together converting on an alley-oop off of another pick and roll. Back-to-back jumpers from Ellington and Smith pushed the Lakers lead up to 15 with just over a minute remaining. The Lakers would hold on for a 94-86 victory.
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