The Trail Blazers secured their second win of the season with a 115-107 victory over the Lakers on Monday. Damian Lillard led all starters with 31 points and Gary Trent Jr. provided 28 points off the bench. Outside of offense, the Blazers defense was pesky throughout the night—leading to 15 turnovers from the Lakers.
After a bumpy start to the season, the Blazers have turned in six consecutive quarters of solid basketball. Here is a second look at Monday’s victory.
LeBron James appeared to be shot out of a cannon at the opening tip. The Lakers star got downhill with ease, connected on his attempts from distance and found open teammates on the perimeter. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the biggest benefactor of LeBron’s gravity. The sharp-shooting wing connected on all three of his three-point attempts in the opening frame.
The Blazers offense did not enjoy the same free-flowing rhythm. Portland could not buy a three-pointer through the first six minutes. The Blazers did manage to keep pace by securing four offensive rebounds. Outside of second-chance looks, Gary Trent Jr. emerged from the bench to connect on his first two three-point attempts. Despite a late rally for the Blazers, LeBron’s 12-point quarter gave the Lakers a 30-22 advantage after one.
Trent and the Blazers’ Melo-less second unit erased the the Lakers’ advantage in less than three minutes with a combination of potent offense and sturdy defense. On offense, Trent kept his opponent off balance on both ends of the floor with his relentless effort. Crisp off-ball movements, forceful screens and pinpoint passing generated a plethora of favorable looks for Portland’s shooters. After a slow opening quarter, the Blazers connected on 70 percent of their shots in the second quarter.
Underneath, Enes Kanter protected Portland’s rebounding advantage. The Turkish big fella snagged six of his 10 first-half rebounds in the second quarter. Defensively, Robert Covington continued to strip the ball from unsuspecting players driving through the lane and Derrick Jones Jr. did his best to play inside his opponent’s jersey at all times. Thanks to a strong quarter on both ends of the court, the Blazers claimed a 58-54 lead at halftime.
Outside of a lone three-pointer from Lillard, it was a brutal start to the third quarter for the Blazers. Fueled by a missed kick-ball violation that turned into a clear-path foul, Dennis Schroder greased the wheels on a 15-0 early-quarter run for the Lakers. In both half-court sets and in transition, Schroder feasted on Portland’s defense. CJ McCollum eventually ended the prolonged Lakers run with a three-pointer that followed a timeout with seven minutes remaining in the quarter.
In the final half of the third, Lillard’s scoring exploits kept pace with the Lakers as Anthony Davis’ offense finally came to life. In the end, it was Schroder that dominated the frame with 11 points as Los Angeles re-claimed the lead. The Lakers headed to the fourth quarter with a slim one-point advantage.
Much like the start of the second quarter, Trent set the tone for the Blazers in the fourth quarter. In just over a minute, Trent connected on a trio of three-pointers that pushed Portland’s lead to 96-91. The Lakers, thanks to Schroder’s deft touch, would crawl back within striking distance. But they would never build a lead over the Blazers in the final stretch of action.
In the final six minutes, a combination of Lillard’s heroics, Nurkic’s rebounding and an overall defensive effort proved to be the difference. With the entire team clicking, the Blazers escaped with a 115-107 victory.
Trent successfully harnessed any potential frustration from his six-minute outing on Saturday to showcase all his skills against the Lakers. The former Duke guard notched 28 points in just 26 minutes of actions. He was unstoppable from beyond the arc—connecting on seven of his 11 attempts from distance. Once he had baited the Lakers into aggressive closeouts, Trent did his best McCollum impersonation while torching defenders off the dribble.
If it wasn’t clear already, it is certainly coming into focus: Trent should sit on top of the second unit hierarchy for shots. Granted, tonight’s victory was a perfect storm of red-hot shooting from Trent and a lack of Carmelo Anthony. There is still time for that rotation to work past the ugliness moving forward.
New Faces, New Defensive Grit
Both Jones and Covington showcased their skills on the defensive end throughout this game. Even inside a relatively conservative defensive scheme, Covington routinely found ways to poke the ball free and generate turnovers. The former Rockets forward finished with three steals. At the rim, Jones patrolled the paint with purpose and recorded three blocks. The prettiest of the three blocks came in the second half when he completed a chase-down rejection on LeBron.
The new duo only combined for nine points, but their defensive effort was crucial to the Blazers’ success against a talented Lakers squad.
Double-Double Off the Bench
Kanter completed a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double in 22 minutes of action off the bench. Off all the non-starters on both sides of tonight’s contest, Kanter trailed only Trent in scoring.
McCollum also notched a double-double with a 20-point, 11-assist performance. His 11 assists came up just one shy of his single-game high.
Lillard, who was looking for additional free throws throughout the night with Schroder blanketing him, notched 31 points. He connected on 50 percent of 10 three-point attempts and was a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line.
The Blazers return to action on Wednesday to face the Clippers.