After nine consecutive games of nail-biting, playoff-intensity basketball what's at least five more?
On Tuesday, the NBA playoffs have officially arrived, and from here on out every game counts for the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers battled the Los Angeles Lakers from buzzer to buzzer before pulling away late in the fourth quarter to win 100-93 and take a 1-0 advantage.
Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 34 points and CJ McCollum finished with 21 as the Blazers stole game one from the top seed in the Western Conference.
Dealing with the frontcourt
Coming into the series, the big question surrounding the Blazers was how their defense, more specifically the frontcourt, would handle the star-studded duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. If game one is any indication, it will be a battle, but after one game the story is how they contained the Lakers’ role players.
James and Davis combined for 51 points and 28 rebounds, but the Blazers did well to control the rest of the roster as Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers’ third-leading scorer, finished with just 14 points.
If the Blazers can limit Los Angeles’ frontcourt like they did on Tuesday night, an upset could potentially be in the cards.
Playing some playoff defense
After allowing an average of 123.2 points a game through the first nine games in the bubble, the Blazers held the Lakers to just 93. The playoffs are known for slower, more physical basketball and that manifested itself throughout the night.
It’s been just one game so far, but it’s a solid start for a team that needed a defensive game like this for confidence early in the series.
Maintaining a Lead
Just when it looks like the Blazers build a cushion between themselves and their opponent, it seems to quickly disappear.
Against the Lakers, Portland jumped out to an early double-digit advantage in the first quarter — leading by as many as 16 points — before giving up much of that ground in the second quarter.
Stretches of foul trouble and poor shot selection contributed to cold streaks throughout the night that left the door open for the Lakers. But in their first playoff game of the season, Portland showed poise as they never let the game get too far away from them, and they came out with a win to show for it.
Game 2 will take place on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. PT on ESPN