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Lakers Defense Quashes Blazers Offense

Damian Lillard was brilliant, but his team didn’t show up in loss to Lakers.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers showed up to face the Los Angeles Lakers ready to break a three-game losing streak and establish themselves against the World Champions. Damian Lillard did his best Gladys Knight impression, taking the microphone and belting it out, keeping all eyes on him. Unfortunately, his teammates were barely half a Pip. Lillard scored 35, but LeBron James countered with 28. James’ teammates were far superior to Dame’s. Portland shot just 37.8%, 27.8 from three on their way to a 102-93 defeat.

First Quarter

The Blazers treated the Lakers like leftover meatloaf in the first three minutes, foiling them at every turn. Mostly they ran quick offense, striking while L.A. was still calculating what to do. Lillard and Gary Trent, Jr. spearheaded the attack, sinking jumpers as the Lakers watched. The home team found themselves calling the dreaded “let’s reset” timeout down 10-2 with 9:00 remaining. It didn’t help. Instead of straightening up their game, the Lakers started turning it over, leading to more Portland points. The Blazers hit a big speed bump, and then the curb, when the second unit arrived, though. L.A. had the quicker pace while Portland’s play turned ugly. Enes Kanter and Montrezl Harrell had a “Who Can’t Guard Whom?” contest, leading to grinding fouls. When it comes to drawing whistles, though, Dame is the king. He remained on the floor through multiple minutes and fouls, keeping his team from collapsing. Behind Lillard’s 15, Portland led 29-24 after one. It was a fine effort, but after a blazing start and that many from Dame, it felt like the cushion should have been bigger.

Second Quarter

Both teams clicked at the outset of the second, hitting from multiple ranges. Neither found sustained success inside, though. Packing the lane with multiple defenders, the opponents stripped and stuffed each other, forcing turnovers. The only clear shots were deep ones. The Blazers weren’t going to lose that contest even on a spotty night. The tide began to turn as the mid-minutes of the quarter crept by. Behind James, the Lakers got deadly serious on defense, guarding inside AND out. That’s a game the Blazers aren’t going to win even on their best night. Stuffing Lillard every time he went to the rim and bothering all of his friends as they were shooting, the Lakers took the lead. That was like waving a red cape in front of Lillard, though. He shot, slid, and boogied his way past the L.A. traps, keeping his team in the fray. By halftime, Lillard’s tally was up to 24 despite the Lakers doubling him at the arc every possession. That was enough to stake Portland to a 57-54 halftime lead.

Third Quarter

The Blazers and Lakers might as well have started ten guys named Joe as the second half began; the play was that sloppy. Free throws and turnovers were the order of the day. The good news for Portland was that the Lakers were trying to throw the house at them defensively, but L.A. still couldn’t earn separation on the scoreboard. The teams bought time through the first 6:00 before the scoring picked up a little. Sadly, most of it was on the Los Angeles side. Solid defense is their hallmark; their offense wasn’t going to stay dormant forever. Portland still tallied blocks and steals, but their basic defense fell apart. Three-pointers and fast breaks led L.A. to a double-digit lead. The Blazers closed it to 9 at the end of the period. The Lakers led 85-76 after three.

Fourth Quarter

LeBron James sat on the bench as the fourth quarter started, but that didn’t keep the Lakers from extending their lead...a bad sign for Portland. Things got worse when he checked back in. The lead ballooned to 15. The Blazers found themselves in desperation/recovery mode before the quarter was four minutes old. Desperation did not avail, nor was recovery possible. Isolated scores from Lillard and Gary Trent, Jr. were the best the Blazers could muster. It wasn’t near enough.

Fatigue, a thinner roster, and the law of averages all caught up to Portland in this one. They’ll have to chalk it up and try again Monday.

Boxscore

Portland returns home to welcome the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night at 7:30 PM.