In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare famously asked, "What's in a name?" As it turns out, almost everything you need to know about the Los Angeles Lakers is contained in theirs: very little "O", no "D" whatsoever, and a whole lot of "L's". This proved out on the court tonight as the Portland Trail Blazers ran the Lakers through a 107-77 meat grinder. Chants of, "Beat L.A.!" in the first quarter turned into "Stop beating them! Please, for the love of God...they're dead already!" by the fourth. As the final horn sounded Portland walked away with a comfortable 30-point victory and a rare season sweep over the Lakers.
The story of this game lies as much in what wasn't present as what was. In the first quarter Damian Lillard proved that daggers lurked not only in men's smiles, but in his shooting hand. He tossed Portland's traditional slow start right out the window by hitting 4 three-pointers--en route to 14 points--in the period.
When confronted with the eternal question, "To 'D' or not to 'D'," the Trail Blazers chose the former option. Los Angeles isn't an offensive powerhouse, but 12 points in a quarter is low even for them. For those counting, Lillard outscored the Lakers in the first period 14-12, propelling his team to a 26-12 lead.
Tired of hearing that "nothing will come of nothing", the Blazers bench showed up strong in the second quarter. They were spearheaded by CJ McCollum who would score 9 (and assist on 3 more) in the first 5 minutes of the frame. With Arron Afflalo pouring in 8 alongside, Portland's lead ballooned to 50-25 at the 3:20 mark of the second. It was such stuff as dreams are made of.
Alas, the course of true love never did run smooth, nor do Portland performances when they hold significant leads. L.A. put in 14 points in the last 3:11 of the first half and the 25-point advantage quickly became a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. But the Blazers still led by 13, 52-39, at intermission.
Lowly as they are, the Lakers took some pride in their performance. In the third quarter they asked Portland, "Do you think we are easier to be played on than a pipe?" Coming out of halftime L.A. made an honest attempt to shut off the lane defensively, even if that meant leaving the Blazers open shots at the three-point arc. If love is blind, and lovers cannot see, neither could Portland shooters. Their repeated third-quarter bricks allowed Los Angeles to keep pace, cutting the lead to 74-63 on a Jordan Clarkson buzzer-beater to end the period. Momentum was sliding the Lakers' way heading into the fourth.
If Clarkson's shot was a dagger the Blazers saw before them, they promptly seized the handle and jammed it right into L.A.'s eye courtesy of 14 more points from McCollum in just 7 minutes. The fourth-quarter rally Portland routinely allows opponents was nowhere to be found. By the 5:00 mark of the fourth the Blazers had outscored the Lakers 23-2. The game was up and Portland sauntered to their well-deserved 30-point victory.
The final tally for missing ingredients in this game read: no poor first quarter performance, no bad defense, no bench letdown, no second-half rally for the opponent. Shockingly enough, this made the game easy. The only bad habit peeking its head above ground: allowing Clarkson 27 points on 10-16 shooting, yet another point guard gone crazy against the Blazers. But that was small potatoes on a night when the Lakers wert damned like an ill roasted egg.
Notable performances included Damian Lillard with 20 points on 4-8 shooting from distance, Arron Afflalo with 17 on 3-5 beyond the arc, and most notably CJ McCollum with a career-high 27 points on 10-16 shooting from the field with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
On the other end of the spectrum you have Nicolas Batum shooting 1-5 from range on open shots (10 rebounds, though), Robin Lopez netting only 4 rebounds in 25 minutes (2 blocks and 4-4 shooting, though), and Alonzo Gee going 2-6 from the floor in 5 minutes.
A couple other players had interesting nights. Meyers Leonard grabbed 11 rebounds in 19 minutes but looked awkward everywhere else. Joel Freeland's shot was going down like butter-coated butter. Tim Frazier saw his first action as a Trail Blazer and netted 2 steals in 5 minutes.
Nothing that happens against the Lakers can be taken seriously, mostly because it can't be reproduced against other teams. As we said in the last recap against the Clippers, though, Portland needs easy wins this week. They don't come much easier than this. Opponent-inspired or self-determined, the Blazers did exactly what they were supposed to. We haven't seen that often in the last 2 months. It was a fun night all around.
Tonight's Boxscore illustrates the evils of single-game plus-minus. The Blazers are divided into two camps: those who played alongside CJ McCollum and those who didn't.
Silver Screen and Roll was probably rooting for their team to lose. They'd like to keep their lottery pick.
The Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Memphis Grizzlies tonight. This gave the Blazers the Northwest Division crown even before their own victory. Portland can finish no worse than 4th in the Western Conference standings, though that seed will not determine homecourt.
The Blazers are tied in the loss column with the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs who sit in 5th and 6th respectively. Should the teams remain tied the Blazers would earn homecourt advantage against either by virtue of the division win. If the Blazers fall behind either, homecourt in the first round would go the opponent.
Portland sits 2 games behind the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies in the loss column. Houston currently occupies the 2nd seed, Memphis the 3rd.
The Blazers face Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans tomorrow night at home.
If you have questions about this game, the seeding race, or anything Blazers-related make sure and leave a message on our Podcast voice mail number at 234-738-3394.
For those wondering, Blazer's Edge Night stories are still coming in so we're going to save the recap on those until Monday. Stay tuned if you want to feel really, really good.