The Lakers started center Chris Kaman alongside fellow big man Pau Gasol, making for a tall lineup. Both teams were content to shoot jump shots early on, though Los Angeles was less successful in doing so. The Lakers pushed the ball up the court with a sense of urgency, but some sloppy ball handling and passing led to a few quick turnovers. The Blazers were able to create some early separation via a 10-0 run that included three-pointers from Wesley Matthews, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum.
Lillard established some aggressiveness right out of the gate in the first quarter, putting up three shots, getting to the line for four free-throws and registering seven points and three assists in his first six minutes of game time. The Lakers did manage to get some solid offense from guard Kent Bazemore, who scored eight points in the quarter. His teammate's were getting decent shots via kick-outs on guard penetration and from dumping the ball down low and anticipating the double-team -- they just weren't making most of the open shots. L.A. ended the quarter with a flurry of scoring thanks to point guard Steve Nash's crafty passing and scoring as he racked up five points to go along with four assists, and Portland went into the second quarter up two, held afloat by 4-8 three-point shooting and 7 made free-throws.
Nash continued his offensive wizardry early in the second, tying the game at 29 points a piece just seconds in. Meanwhile, the Blazers started missing jumpers while the Lakers' 40-year-old point guard remained in vintage form, and Los Angeles grabbed a five-point lead with about nine minutes to go until the half.
Lakers guard Nick Young came in off the bench, connecting on seemingly every shot he put up as L.A. stretched the lead to seven. Portland coach Terry Stotts brought LaMarcus Aldridge back into the game at the seven-minute mark to restore order, and the Blazers promptly responded by scoring six straight points. Young, however, stayed ridiculously hot from the floor, scoring 17 in the quarter. Portland maintained its steady course, seeing offense from all angles and eventually taking a one-point lead on a monster Lillard dunk over Kaman and Gasol.
The two teams went back-and-forth the next two-and-a-half minutes, until Lillard ended up with the ball in an isolation set with the shotclock turned off and the score tied. Driving down the lane and attempting another emphatic dunk, Lillard just missed this time. Robin Lopez missed a tip-in, but Aldridge followed it in for the score and secured the two-point halftime lead.
The Blazers and Lakers exchanged jumpers to start the third period, Portland getting open shots largely from kick-outs on a collapsing L.A. defense. With Aldridge attacking the hoop early and his teammates hitting open shots, the Blazers were able to open up a double-digit lead halfway through the quarter.
Young kept his team in the game with some timely outside shooting, but Portland responded with second-chance points from Batum and Thomas Robinson, maintaining a healthy margin as the period wound to a close. Nash and big man Ryan Kelly manufactured a quick, unanswered five-point scoring burst with a minute left in the quarter, and the Blazers took an eight-point advantage into the final break.
D'Antoni left in a reserve unit to start the fourth, led by Young and Nash. After a well-defended three-pointer by Young went in, Lillard responded with two deep threes of his own to push Portland's lead to 13.
With Nash leaving the game with multiple injuries, Young finally cooling off and the Blazers able to keep a comfortable lead behind Lillard and Alridge's continued offensive contributions, Stotts was able to end the game with Victor Claver, Earl Watson and C.J. McCollum on the floor, cruising to a 124-112 victory.
Damian Lillard established himself early tonight, scoring 34 points on 10-of-22 shooting. This was easily the most aggressive outing for him since Aldridge returned to the lineup three games ago. Lillard went 5-for-10 from deep, 9-for-9 from the free-throw line and dished out eight assists. He also had a couple solid steals early on -- prompting some fast break points -- and a ridiculous dunk over the entire frontcourt of Los Angeles in the second quarter. Though Lillard had a showcase offensive game tonight, he couldn't contain Nash -- 17 years his senior -- and allowed the ailing point guard to penetrate into the lane at will and pick up 10 assists in 22 minutes.
LaMarcus Aldridge was on point tonight, scoring 31 points, pulling down 15 rebounds and nabbing six assists. He was a calming influence for Portland on the floor, demonstrably opening things up for the offense and ending the contest with a game-leading plus/minus of 27 points. When Aldridge is on the floor playing his normal game, he's enough of an offensive threat to garner the attention of the opposing defense and get open shots for teammates. When he goes 12-for-20 from the floor and 7-for-8 from the free-throw line like he did tonight, Aldridge can break the back of an opposing defense.
Nicolas Batum had a very "Batum-like" night with 16 points, five rebounds, seven assists and two steals. He only turned the ball over once and found his range, hitting 4-of-5 outside shots.
Wesley Matthews started the game off rather poorly, only hitting the occasional shot the first three periods. In the fourth, he was able to salvage his stat-line slightly, upgrading it from "abysmal" to just "pretty bad," ending the night 4-of-12 from the field and 2-of-7 from deep for 10 points. Like many of his teammates, Matthews got involved in the passing game, logging six assists.
Robin Lopez had a quiet, 10-point night but grabbed 10 rebounds and two blocks. Kaman and Gasol can be a tough cover at times for a center like Lopez, considering they both have decent range for big men. They were limited to just nine and 12 points tonight, respectively.
Mo Williams had an off-night, making just 3-of-11 shots, two of his six three-pointers and only picking up three assists in a game when the team had 32 as a whole.
Thomas Robinson had 18 productive minutes and played well offensively for the third straight game, a good mark for the second-year big who got seven points, six rebounds and three steals tonight. He did look occasionally overmatched when forced to guard the much bigger Kaman or Gasol, but it'd be difficult for Robinson to do much anyway when giving up so much height.
Dorell Wright had a quiet nine minutes. One rebound was his only statistic logged tonight.
Will Barton shot 4-of-7, scored eight points and contributed five rebounds. He had two impressive finishes inside, twice contorting his body, double-clutching and finishing strongly while falling to the floor and scoring.
Earl Watson, C.J. McCollum and Victor Claver played mop-up duty tonight. Meyers Leonard got into the game with a couple minutes remaining, but got the boot from the officials after throwing Lakers guard Kendall Marshall to the floor on a fast break layup and receiving a flagrant-2 foul.
The Blazers got up 99 shots tonight -- hitting 46 of them -- and made 13-of-29 three-point attempts. They won the rebounding battle 50-45, picked up 32 assists and only turned the ball over 10 times. The game never really seemed in doubt, even when Los Angeles got out to some early leads before halftime. This was a relatively comfortable victory, thanks in large part to the combined 65 points from Lillard and Aldridge.
Somewhat alarming, though, was Nash's ability to penetrate into the lane at will and kick it out time after time to open teammates when Portland's defense collapsed. If anyone for the Lakers besides Young were able to heat up when the game was still competitive, this would've ended a much closer game. Either way, the Blazers got a nice victory tonight, avenging their one-point home loss to L.A. a month ago. Portland's win also got the team within a game-and-a-half of the No. 4 seeded Rockets and maintained a two-game cushion on the No. 6 Warriors. The eighth-seeded Suns visit the Moda Center Friday night for the Blazers' next game.
Silver Screen & Roll didn't get to do any player hating tonight, but fan-favorite "Swaggy P" did pick up 40 big ones. That's enough to celebrate when your team is likely headed for its worst finish in franchise history, right?
Jersey Contest scores and Friday's form can be found right here. Congrats to MavetheGreat for winning the March contest!
-- Chris Lucia | email@example.com | Twitter