Damian Lillard and Gary Trent Jr. stole the show for the Trail Blazers in a 115-107 victory over the title-defending Lakers on Monday. Outside of the Blazers’ shiny stats out of the backcourt, CBS Sports NBA analyst Sam Quinn took an expanded look at how coach Terry Stotts’ squad exploited Lakers newcomer Montrezl Harrell’s suspect defense in the second half.
Prior to jumping into the matchup, Quinn framed Harrell’s performance with the Lakers’ record of protecting leads with LeBron James and Anthony Davis at the helm.
The LeBron James-Anthony Davis Lakers won their first 59 games in which they led after three quarters. If last season’s championship team led after three quarters, the game was functionally over. Not once did they blow such a lead, and that remarkable reliability came primarily from their defensive excellence.
Quinn then turned his attention to the former Clippers big man.
On Monday, the Portland Trail Blazers snapped that 59-game winning streak with a third-quarter lead. After falling behind 85-84 through three quarters, they outscored the Lakers 31-22 in the fourth to walk out of Staples Center with a 115-107 victory that last year’s roster would never have allowed. But last year’s roster didn’t include Montrezl Harrell.
Harrell’s extended run in the second half received the lion’s share of attention from Quinn. After explaining how Harrell’s strengths are best utilized against bench units, Quinn detailed how the Blazers repeatedly sought out the former Louisville standout.
But those assets are best applied against bench lineups that he can physically manhandle. Asking him to play in crunch time puts a target on his back. That was especially true on Monday, as Frank Vogel left him on the floor for more than 15 consecutive minutes of game time. By the time Portland realized how exploitable he was on defense, he was too tired to fight back. That, in essence, is what lost the Lakers this game. The Blazers hunted Harrell into extinction on pick-and-rolls.
The Blazers, who were trailing the Lakers by a point at the start of the fourth quarter, outscored the defending champs by nine points in the final frame. Harrell logged 27 minutes off the bench and registered a less-than-ideal +/- of -20 on Monday.
You can read Quinn’s full story—that includes excellent video analysis—at CBS Sports.