In about as ho-hum as a NBA overtime finish decided by one possession can be, the Portland Trail Blazers hung on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 109-106 on the road Tuesday, improving to 3-0 in the preseason. While the score stayed pretty tight wire-to-wire, most of the evening was marred by mistakes. The Blazers committed 20 turnovers and 29 fouls, looking sloppy against a team not expected to make much noise in the standings this season. Aside from some fireworks by Damian Lillard, there will be plenty to draw from to tighten up before the important games start on October 25.
As he had done for the first two contests, coach Terry Stotts' only adjustment to the starting lineup was at small forward - tonight it was Evan Turner's chance to log heavy minutes with first unit, and while there were flashes of what his playmaking ability could bring to that group, he struggled from the field going only 3-10 for 9 points, 3 assists and three steals. There were highs - including alley-oop lobs to Mason Plumlee and Maurice Harkless -but those were buoyed by three turnovers.
The night would belong to Lillard, who, continuing a trend not at all bothersome to Trail Blazer fans, blitzed the Lakers for 30 points on 10-17 shooting and 6-9 from downtown. L.A. dared Dame to shoot, giving him space on the perimeter all night and he obliged, torching them with one long-range bomb after another. Throughout the first three preseason games, Lillard looks absolutely dialed-in.
Earlier in the day, Stotts indicated that he would begin to increase playing time for rotation players and he followed through - Turner played a team-high 28 minutes and 9 players played more than 20 minutes. After going deep to the bench early against Utah and Phoenix, the Blazers stuck to its would-be regulars until about five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The end of the bench wasn't cleared until overtime, which neither party looked particularly interested in playing.
The regular season rotation is very much still a work in progress, as Stotts again was returned another key frontcourt piece in Meyers Leonard, seeing his first basketball action since recovering from a shoulder injury which sidelined him back in March. As expected, Leonard's outside shot looked a bit rusty, but he still made a difference and put up a decent line of 11 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block in 20 minutes. Meyers buried only one of his four long-ball attempts, but put the Blazers ahead with a Duncan-esque bank shot late in the fourth. A good return for him.
Harkless shined off of the bench with 14 points, 7 boards and 3 blocks in just 17 minutes. He did a good job cleaning up the offensive glass for some easy putbacks, and continued to back up talk of his new and improved outside shot.
Plumlee seems to have one speed and that speed is "Go" - he had a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards, and seemed to crash into just about each other player on the floor while doing so. The intensity is great to see, but sometimes these guys need to remember that it's just preseason.
Nobody else was particularly noteworthy - Shabazz Napier earned some playing time in both halves but didn't look the force he had in his first couple games. 7 points, 2 assists in 22 minutes.
The Blazers will stay in L.A. to face the Clippers on Thursday at 7:30 pm, televised nationally on TNT.
-- Ryan Rosback | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter