The Portland Trail Blazers took advantage of key missing personnel, particularly LeBron James, and blew out the Los Angeles Lakers 105-90 Saturday. It wasn’t nearly that close.
Music to our ears.
L.A. was already coming into the contest shorthanded, missing James and several other rotation players. They also lost Anthony Davis for the night after just 7 minutes due to a stomach illness. It just never felt like remainder of the Lakers had will to compete. Despite a rocky second quarter, Portland was able to run away an easy win.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, who responded to his lowest scoring output in eight years against Indiana with a solid, if not wholly spectacular, 25 points on 9-19 shooting to go along with 6 assists in just three quarters of work. Jusuf Nurkic was the unsung hero, quietly putting in 15 points on a perfect 6/6 shooting and gobbling up 17 rebounds.
Russell Westbrook was a disaster. Carmelo Anthony was, well, Carmelo Anthony. The game was so lopsided, the weekend Moda Center crowd didn’t even muster up a “Beat L.A.!” chant.
The Blazers wasted no time delivering the first punch, or haymaker rather, as they dominated the Lakers in by far their best opening period so far this season. Lillard looked determined to put his shooting woes in the rear view mirror, coming out aggressively and knocking down his first three shots. His success was contagious and seemed to unlock a certain sense of urgency for the team absent from much of the past four games. After hemming and hawing with L.A. for the first few minutes, Portland finished the quarter on a 22-4 run fueled by aggressive drives to the basket and tenacious interior defense. But it was Lillard setting the tone offensively with 10 points and 4 assists that really seemed to be the driving factor. Blazers took a commanding 36-14 lead heading into the second period.
The second quarter was decidedly less exhilarating, as the Lakers responded and put the clamps on Portland’s offense. Avery Bradley was a defensive menace to Lillard, hounding him all over the floor, pouring a bucket of water onto his hot start. Lillard was held to a lone point and assist in the quarter as L.A. began to claw back into the game. With Davis out, said clawing would have to be done by Westbrook and Anthony. The results were about as expected. Westbrook in particular has seemed to unlock a rare level of derision from the Moda Center crowd by wearing a Lakers uniform, and the fans let him hear it after each unforced turnover and ill-advised shot attempt. (He finished just 1-13 from the floor.) The Blazers only mustered 15 points in the period, but still took a double-digit lead into the break leading 51-36.
All of the Lakers’ fight appeared to be left in the locker room, as Portland quickly seized control in the third and turned this one into a laugher. Lillard found his groove again from beyond the arc and poured on another 11 points. It wasn’t even needed, as L.A. phoned in the final 24 minutes. Robert Covington and Norman Powell joined in on the three-point exhibition and helped push the lead as high as 34 points. The Blazers headed into the final frame leading 93-62.
This game was put away much earlier and the final 12 minutes were all garbage time.
Carmelo Anthony made his return to Portland and was welcomed with a warm reception. He gave the fans exactly the performance they wanted: 4-14 shooting, 0-4 from deep, for 12 points, 2 rebounds and an assist. Never change, Melo.
Stay tuned for the extended analysis coming soon.
The Blazers will get a couple days off before heading to L.A. for the rubber match with the Clippers Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Pacific.