Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers (Series: Tied 1-1)
Saturday, August 22 - 5:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Trevor Ariza (opted out), Caleb Swanigan (opted out), Zach Collins (out), Nassir Little (out)
Lakers injuries: Avery Bradley (opted out), Rajon Rondo (questionable)
How to watch on TV: ABC (or check out Fubo for your streaming needs)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Silver Screen and Roll
The Portland Trail Blazers head into Game 3 licking their wounds after suffering their worst loss in Orlando’s bubble. The Los Angeles Lakers held Portland to their lowest score since December 2018 in a 111-88 beat down. Damian Lillard led the way for Portland with 18 points, but made only one of his seven three-point attempts. Lillard left the game in the third quarter with a dislocated finger on his left hand. Lillard is expected to play in Game 3, but will be wearing a splint.
Anthony Davis led the way for the Lakers with 31 points and 11 rebounds. The totals aren’t much different from his 28-point, 11-rebound performance in Game 1, but he was much more aggressive and efficient and didn’t settle for jumpers. Los Angeles beat Portland in pretty much every aspect in Game 2. The only upside for Portland from Thursday’s game was that it allowed Terry Stotts to rest the starters in the fourth quarter.
What to watch for
- Three-point shooting. The Blazers were one of the best three-point shooting teams in seeding play, hitting more than 15 threes a game while shooting 41.4 percent. The Lakers were the worst, making fewer than 10 threes and shooting only 30 percent. That advantage was reversed on Thursday as Portland made only eight threes on 27.6 percent shooting while Los Angeles hit 14 on 36.8 percent shooting. Part of Portland’s struggle can be attributed to the Laker defense. They were also holding Portland below 30 percent partway through the fourth quarter of Game 1 before Portland turned it on to finish that game at 38 percent. The Blazers need to find a way to get good looks from beyond the arc and to knock them down. They are going to have a hard time beating the Lakers if they can’t out-shoot LA from three.
- Toughness inside. While the Lakers outscored Portland from distance on Thursday, they rely on dominating inside. Half of LA’s points have come in the paint in the series, the highest mark in the playoffs. The Blazers need to do a better job of crashing the defensive boards. They allowed 17 and 15 offensive rebounds in Games 1 and 2, respectively. On Thursday the Lakers turned those extra possessions in 20 second-chance points. Portland doesn’t need to outscore the Lakers in the paint to win the series, but they can’t make things easier for them by giving up extra possessions.
- Who will step up? The Lakers are rightly focusing their defensive attention on limiting Damian Lillard’s scoring. Portland needs to make them pay by getting someone else going. Throughout the games in Orlando the Blazers have seen big scoring games from CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, Jusuf Nurkic, and Gary Trent Jr., but none of them have been effective so far against the Lakers. McCollum has shot 13 of 36 (38.9 percent) in the series. Anthony is 4 of 17 (23.5 percent), Nurkic is 8 of 21 (38.1 percent), and Trent Jr. is 5 of 15 (33.3 percent). The Blazers need one or more of their other scorers to get going if they want to get back on track in Game 3.
What they’re saying
Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll examined Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s bounceback Game 2:
[W]hen Caldwell-Pope is the one making the defense pay for sending extra bodies at James and Davis, he will get the credit for all the other things he does to help his team, too, from the energy he brings to the way he chases around opposing guards defensively.
“I’m really happy for KCP,” [coach Frank] Vogel said. “Both games he played extremely well. Game 2 he shot the ball well. Game 1 he didn’t. But both games he played really well. He’s a huge part of what we’ve done, he exemplifies our ‘play harder than our opponent’ mindset. He was great tonight.”
Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer wonders if LeBron is showing his age:
Maybe this is nothing. Maybe LeBron is just saving himself for a long playoff run. The odds are that he will eventually explode for a 30- or 40-point game against a defense as poor as the Blazers’.
But he’s also no. 8 all time in career minutes (48,551) and no. 1 among active players. Vince Carter was no. 2 before retiring at the end of the season. Pau Gasol (no. 3) may be right behind him.
In his 17th season, LeBron is still big and skilled enough to dominate without being the best athlete on the floor. He did become the first player in NBA history with at least 20 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists in a playoff game in Game 1. But the Lakers may still have to make some concessions to his age as the level of competition increases down the line in the playoffs.
Mark Medina of USA Today wrote about the relationship between Anthony Davis and LeBron James:
“I was really down on myself after Game 1. I didn’t feel like I performed to the level I needed to,” Davis said. “(LeBron) let me have my moment and kind of get on myself and then he talked to me.”
What did James say?
“He said I was fine. He said it’s one game and as a guy who’s won multiple championships and has been in these situations before, he knows what to expect,” Davis said. “He knew what to expect from his teammates and he kind of just was there for me to kind of encourage me and keep me level-headed. Because it was just one game.”