Tonight the Portland Trail Blazers faced a Los Angeles Lakers team missing LeBron James and, for all but the first 7 minutes of action, Anthony Davis. For once, they did not play down to the level of their competition. Although in this case, that may not have been humanly possible. You know that hole the Russians drilled towards the earth’s core, eventually getting frustrated because the heat down there was melting all their drill bits? Just before they gave up, they heard from the depths below the screams of the LeBron-less Lakers calling out plays and point guard Russell Westbrook ignoring them.
Ain’t nothin’ coming out of that hole but suck.
The Lakers allowed Damian Lillard to shoot like he was in practice. That led to a 9-19, 6-14 from range effort, notching 25 points with 6 assists and 2 steals. Jusuf Nurkic also had a superlative game. At that point, all the rest of the Blazers had to do was not screw it up. They didn’t. Portland walked away with a 105-90 victory in which they were never threatened.
If you missed the game, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. Below are some other things you might want to note.
The Blazers came out of the gate ready to take advantage of their slower, older opponents. They pushed the offense in transition whenever possible. They got into their halfcourt sets early too. Either way, the Lakers couldn’t keep up.
Lillard was one of the chief protagonists, busting through the doldrums with 10 points on a half-dozen shots before the period was half done. Getting him on a roll was the priority, and there was no better opponent to do it against.
Nurk Cranks It Up
As often happens, Jusuf Nurkic sparkled alongside his star point guard teammate. Nurk started the action by freeing Dame and company with screens. He rolled quickly and his friends found him. Early touches got his spirits up. After that, L.A. had no chance. Offense, defense...Nurkic did it all. He shot 6-6 from the field for 15 points, 17 rebounds, 3 steals, and a block in just 22 minutes. That’s HUGE.
The Lakers scored only 14 points in the first quarter, 36 in the first half. Portland picked up the energy on defense, stripping and stopping anybody who ventured in the paint. After that, they only had to worry about solo Westbrook drives and the occasional three. Neither were consequential. The other #0 on the floor shot 1-13. The Lakers fired 9-32 from distance, just 28.1%.
Portland has been a prisoner of momentum this season. When they’re hot, it snowballs. When they’re not, they don’t have a snowball’s chance in you-know-where. Aside from a little second-period glitching, the Blazers kept up a steady level of effort all game. They focused at the start of each half in particular, making sure they had the opponent down on the mat before they started playing around.
Robert Covington backed up his sterling performance against the Indiana Pacers last night with a slew of assured threes tonight. He went 4-7 from distance and didn’t seem to care where he was shooting from. His confidence is high enough that feeding him is a great option for the Blazers right now.
Most of the roster got run in the blowout. We got treated to an Anfernee Simons dunk, but also a wee bit of him getting over-excited and aggressive, regarding all shots as good shots. It wasn’t his best look, but considering his output this season, he gets a pass and permission to play around.
Nassir Little is getting so good at isolation defense that I’m starting to expect it at this point. Don’t sleep on him.
The rest of Portland’s reserves weren’t great, but at least they weren’t as bad as most of the Lakers. The entire Portland bench committed 4 turnovers in 100 combined minutes. Westbrook committed 6 in 29.
There’s not much else to this game than that. The Lakers without Davis and James are probably the worst team in the league. They played like it tonight. Credit to Portland for taking full advantage.
The Blazers head to the road again, traveling to L.A. to face the Clippers yet again at 7:00 PM on Tuesday night.