The Trail Blazers suffered their second-straight loss to the Lakers in a 126-117 defeat. LeBron James produced 44 points, and passed Wilt Chamberlain on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Portland enjoyed an early 13-point lead before surrendering it to an energized Los Angeles squad. James’ big night was accompanied by a 20-point effort from JaVale McGee. Portland’s duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 54 points. Despite allowing a season-high 126 points, the Blazers managed to stay within striking distance before stumbling down the stretch.
Distant Double-Digit Memory
Everything was going right for Portland to start the game. The Blazers connected on six of their first nine attempts from beyond the arc, and Jusuf Nurkic was controlling the paint on defense. Prior to James re-entering the game in the second quarter, the Blazers were out in front with a double-digit lead. Then it all unraveled.
McGee and James gave Portland’s backline fits. When Nurkic was forced to rotate to help stop James driving to the rim, McGee found himself wide open for easy finishes. The duo combined for 19 points in the Lakers’ lead-claiming run in the second quarter.
Missed Chances and NBA Records
The Blazers’ attempted comeback in the fourth quarter fell short due to a handful of costly mistakes. With just over eight minutes remaining, Portland had cut Los Angeles’ lead to 11 points. The momentum stalled after a pair of turnovers from Nurkic and Lillard.
Down by eight to start the final period, the Blazers needed to be close to perfect against a scrappy Lakers squad. Instead, they struggled to finish shots at the rim, and committed four turnovers. Portland’s problems were compounded by two video reviews that switched standard fouls to flagrants for Los Angeles.
The Blazers’ push halfway through the fourth quarter did force James back on to the court. During his stint in the final moments, James passed Chamberlain on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. You’re welcome.
Go Go Gadget Ingram Arms
The length of Los Angeles’ starting five bothered Portland throughout the night. Whether it was McGee finishing at the rim, or Brandon Ingram posting up a smaller opponent, the Lakers consistently found high-quality looks on offense. It wasn’t his most efficient night, but Ingram still captured 17 points. The Lakers looked to get the former Duke standout the ball anytime he had position on McCollum in the post.
Dame Gets to the Line
After attempting just 3 free throws in his last trio of games, Lillard made his way to the charity stripe for 13 attempts. Dame converted 12 of those attempts, and finished with 31 points. Along with his own scoring, Lillard recorded 11 assists.
Nik Stauskas failed to register a point, and was on the receiving end of a soul-snatching LeBron block. It was a forgettable 14 minutes for the former Nets guard.
Evan Turner struggled to find his groove, but still managed to fill the box score. He finished with six points, six assists and seven rebounds.
McCollum scored 13 of his 23 points in the second half. It was a rough night on the defensive end for McCollum, but he helped keep Portland within a reasonable distance down the stretch.
Nurkic recorded his seventh double-double of the season with his 21-point, 14-rebound effort. McGee was a problem for the big fella, but Nurkic finished the night with four blocks.
The Blazers will return to action on Friday when they face the new-look Timberwolves.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com