The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers for the 12th-straight time, winning 97-81 at the Staples Center Sunday, and also jumped the Denver Nuggets for the all important eighth and final seed in the Western Conference playoff standings (by virtue of the current tiebreaker status). It wasn’t pretty, but the Blazers took care of business against a tanking Lakers team with little to play for.
The whole first half was a mess offensively for both sides, with shooting hovering in the low thirties across the board and a heap of careless mistakes. The Blazers looked like a team playing the second night of a back-to-back and just a step slower than the energized, yet undisciplined Laker squad.
With Los Angeles all but laying out the red carpet for Portland to seize a commanding lead, the Blazers struggled to gain any separation at all. A CJ McCollum jumper early in the second quarter briefly claimed a 12 point lead at 29-17, but for the most part the Lakers were able to to just enough to stay within single digits. It just wasn’t great basketball. Portland struggled to find the bottom of the net but Los Angeles struggled even more.
Portland Trail Blazers 40, Los Angeles Lakers 32
Those scoring woes disappeared - at least for a period - for the Blazers in the third quarter as the team exploded for 37 points, largely fueled by 14 from Damian Lillard, who started to find his stroke from outside. The Lakers began to find some success of their own, but couldn’t keep up, falling behind by 10 points on a jumper from Allen Crabbe, and just two minutes later 20 on a darting three from Lillard.
The lead got out as far as 25 after five straight points from Al-Farouq Aminu early in the fourth and Los Angeles never cut it down much further than that. Lillard played, but didn’t score in the final frame but it didn’t matter. The Lakers had their highest scoring quarter of just 25 points, but Portland was still able to easily walk away with a relatively uncontested win.
Crabbe might of put the stamp of the evening with an angle three at the 3:28 mark that gave him 18 and the Blazers a comfortable 22 point cushion.
Kevin Calabro got to do his “Closers” bit on national television and Portland will fly home better in the standing than they flew in.
The Blazers will head back to Portland and get a day off before hosting the Denver Nuggets Tuesday in a huge game in the battle for the 8th seed - tip is set for 7 p.m. PST.
-- Ryan Rosback | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter