The Trail Blazers exited the NBA Playoffs following a 131-122 loss to the Lakers in Game 5. Without Damian Lillard and several others, CJ McCollum led the way for Portland with 36 points, coming up five points shy of his postseason career-high. For the Lakers, it was more of the same: feed their two super stars. LeBron James and Anthony Davis applied the pressure in a dominant second half for Los Angles. In the end, LeBron and Davis combined for eight three-pointers and 79 points.
Here is a look back at the Blazers’ final outing of the up-and-down 2019-20 season.
CJ Moves Downhill, Blazers’ Defense Goes Zone
The Trail Blazers’ surprisingly-effective first half was fueled by series of new looks on both ends of the floor. Due to numerous injuries, coach Terry Stotts went to his bag of tricks. Offensively, Portland relied of the timing of McCollum’s early-possession drives. Moving at a much different speed than Lillard, that included a ton of side-to-side movements, McCollum put the Lakers on their heels often. Once he had his own shot rolling, the rest of the floor opened up. As soon as the Lakers rotated to stop the former Lehigh standout, an open shooter would materialize beyond the arc. That action facilitated a 10-of-15 shooting mark for the Blazers from distance before halftime, an outcome that led to a tied score at the break.
Defensively, a return to an alternating zone scheme and an increased emphasis on rebounding put the Lakers off balance early. By packing the paint, Portland forced LA to shoot from distance—a solid game plan until the Lakers found their rhythm. Outside of the zone looks, rookie Jaylen Hoard showed off his rebounding instincts. Stationed near the baseline on both ends of the floor, the 21-year-old forward sliced through box outs to snag boards.
One Last Disaster in the Third Quarter
The Blazers reached 76 points with 8:33 remaining in the third quarter, then an all-too-familiar outcome took hold. The Lakers, riding the hot hand of Davis, reeled off a 13-0 run, putting the Blazers in a double-digit hole. Los Angeles’ outburst, outside of running up the score, placed a hurdle in front of Portland’s offense. Instead of facing a defense reacting to a missed shot on the other end, the Lakers were able to get their defense set. With McCollum bottled up, LA turned defensive stops into quick-and-easy looks on offense.
As a team, the Lakers matched their three-point output from the first half (six) in the third quarter alone. Davis, who had a relatively quiet first half after a brush with foul trouble, notched 20 points of his own as LA secured a 100-92 lead heading into the final quarter.
One Last Push
To the Blazers’ credit, they did not go quietly after an off-the-rails third quarter. Jusuf Nurkic and McCollum combined for five quick points as the Lakers went scoreless to start the final frame. Anfernee Simons added a three-pointer at 9:46, leveling the score at 100. After a full timeout from the Lakers, the Blazers’ upset hopes began to fade. A single-possession deficit ballooned to double digits once Davis found his stride. Following an 11-point flurry from The Brow, the Lakers found themselves on the winning end of a 123-112 advantage.
Without their typical late-game firepower, the Blazers failed to catch the Lakers in the final three minutes, sealing their exit from the bubble.
Gary Trent Jr. supplied a fitting final chapter to his successful run in Orlando. The second-year wing logged 40 minutes and picked up defensive duties against LeBron along the way. Offensively he spaced the floor efficiently, connecting on three of his seven three-point attempts. Defensively, he created turnovers with his pesky full-court pressure. The Blazers might have exited the first round after just five games, but Trent’s potential role in Portland’s future is a reason to celebrate.
It wasn’t the season that the preseason hype might have suggested, but Anfernee Simons logged a series of minutes in the bubble that he can hang his hat on. In 28 minutes in Game 5, he recorded 13 points and four steals. Outside of his counting numbers; Simons avoided foul trouble, fought for loose balls and made correct rotations.
Hey! Jaylen Adams saw action (two minutes).
Jusuf Nurkic closed out his successful return from injury with another double-double. The big fella was exposed a few times outside of the paint on defense, but that is to be expected. Nurkic’s performance in Orlando should serve as a springboard for next season, whenever that may be.