The Portland Trail Blazers stepped into Staples Center looking to avenge their ouster from the 2020 NBA Playoffs at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers. After a slow start wherein the L.A. bigs pounded Portland unmercifully, the Blazers turned up the guard power and cruised past the World Champs, 115-107. Gary Trent, Jr. was the knockout star of the evening with 28 points on 7-11 shooting from the arc. CJ McCollum added 20 and Damian Lillard 31 in the Blazers victory.
Portland started out slow once again as LeBron hit 3 buckets for 7 points in first three minutes of play, giving L.A. an instant 9-2 lead. And that was before he threw down an unopposed dunk on the break. Portland’s ball movement was fooling nobody. The Lakers were well on their way to 30 in the first against the new Portland defense, which looked about the same as the old Portland defense.
The Blazers closed the gap with the second unit, though...definitely a new development. Trent, Jr. hit three threes after checking in with the early bench players. He’d score 16 points by halftime, while McCollum added 13, 11 in the second quarter.
Portland prospered when they stopped pitching the ball around the perimeter and attacked the rim hard. A couple of easy inside scores opened up the arc, and suddenly a Lakers defense that looked cement-solid became cracked and porous. The Blazers led 58-54 at intermission.
If the first half was a series of runs (Portland had 11- and 12-point streaks), the Lakers committed to making the trend their own as the second started. They rattled off 15 straight after halftime. Portland’s starters continued a game-long trend of turning over the ball, contributing to L.A.’s dominance. The Blazers guards came on strong as the third period wound down, but Dennis Schroder ripped them apart on the other end. L.A. led 85-84 at the end of three.
Trent Jr. made a strong argument for his name to be typed in all caps for the next month as the final period began, hitting three more threes, guarded to boot. Robert Covington and Derrick Jones, Jr. turned up their already-excellent defensive games to 11, and THEN Damian Lillard caught on fire. At that point, the Blazers weren’t getting stopped. Jusuf Nurkic rebounded big down the stretch and the Blazers walked away with the win to go 2-1 on the young season.
LeBron James had 29 points in the loss. Enes Kanter added 12 to Trent Jr.’s 28, helping the Blazers to 45 points off the bench this evening.
Chat about the game below as you wait for Steve Dewald and the extended recap detailing all the action.