"Nothing is certain except death, taxes, and beating the 2015-16 Los Angeles Lakers."
OK, well if he didn't say it, he should have. After tonight's 106-98 romp against the Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers own a 2-0 record against them this season, a 7-10 mark overall. They'd happily play against the Purple and Gold every night of the week and twice on Sunday. Really...tip the ball now. Another game closer to .500 would be nice.
Normally our extended recaps include lengthy Game Flow and Analysis sections. They're hardly necessary tonight.
While other coaches spent the summer reading John Wooden and Sun Tzu for inspiration, Lakers coach Byron Scott based his playbook on "The Art of Containment" by Colonel Wilhelm Klink. Portland started the game running simple screens for CJ McCollum. It was too much for L.A. to handle. McCollum sank 4 straight shots, pushing the Blazers to a 9-6 lead. They never looked back.
While Kobe Bryant spent the evening auditioning for "So You Think You Can Shoot?" McCollum and Damian Lillard racked up 28 and 29 respectively. The Blazers tortured the Lakers from outside in the first half, then scored on direct passes to the rim in the second half as L.A. scrambled to guard them. The Lakers went on occasional hot streaks but good rebounding and even better shooting kept Portland ahead. L.A. posed all the threat (and half the defense) of belly-button lint. The Blazers coasted home to a dozen-point victory.
Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle looked good for L.A. Everyone else looked like week-old hash.
Portland ran into early turnover problems which cleared up after the first period ended. Their rebounding was superb (12 offensive boards to 6 given up), their shooting great (38-78, 49% from the field), and their three-point shooting magnificent (12-30, 40%).
They say everybody has a purpose in life. The Lakers' purpose right now is making other teams feel better about themselves. Mission accomplished, and all of Portland thanks you.
Damian Lillard committed 5 turnovers tonight, badgered by the busy hands of Jordan Clarkson. That was the only blotch on the record of Portland's starting guards. Lillard and CJ McCollum shot a combined 21-39, 9-18 from distance, scoring 57 between them. The Blazers aren't going to lose often under those circumstances. They were brilliant.
Al-Farouq Aminu spent the evening rebounding and making Kobe Bryant look old. The latter was far easier than the former. 9 boards in 28 minutes, hooray for defense.
Mason Plumlee struggled on offense and committed 5 fouls in 24 minutes. Not his best outing.
Noah Vonleh retained the starting small forward position despite the return of Meyers Leonard. He played 20 minutes and looked more comfortable than usual on offense and the glass.
Leonard eased his way back into 22 minutes of play, missing 4 of 5 three-pointers but grabbing 6 rebounds and proving that he knows where to move on defense better than any other power forward the Blazers field.
Like Plumlee, Ed Davis struggled through 24 minutes, shooting 1-3 with 4 rebounds and 2 assists. This wasn't really a game for big guys to shine.
Moe Harkless played aggressively, scoring 7 with 8 rebounds and 3 assists in 26 minutes. He was as good as we've seen him in a Blazers uniform.
Allen Crabbe scored 9 in 17 minutes.
Links and Notes
The Blazers get to play yet another L.A. team on Monday, facing the Clippers at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. They haven't lost to one yet, so here's hoping!