A night following the most disappointing loss of the young season so far, matters only got worse for the Portland Trail Blazers, as the team fell on the road to an improving but still generally dysfunctional Los Angeles Lakers squad. Portland eagerly wanted to wipe away the taste of Tuesday’s maddening collapse to the Los Angeles Clippers - in which they blew an 18-point second half lead at home - but struggled to overcome the Lakers’ stars. LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 58 points as L.A. walked away with the 128-109 win.
Nassir Little was held out with an ailing hip and Josh Hart was a late scratch nursing an ankle sprain, joining Damian Lillard, Gary Payton II and Keon Johnson on the injury report. Trendon Watford got the start in his place.
A lot of things have changed since the Blazers stole a cheeky 106-104 win down in L.A. back on Oct. 23. Both teams have dealt with injuries to key players, although the Lakers are starting to get healthy again after James and Davis both missed significant time. On the road, needing a win in a hostile environment on the second night of a back-to-back would normally be the type of situation Lillard lives for, and his absence could certainly be felt.
Jerami Grant led the way again for Portland with 27 points. Anfernee SImons added 22 points and 8 assists and Justise Winslow had 21 points.
Here’s how the action went down.
For much of the opening period, the Lakers seemed to do everything they could to make life easy for the Blazers. L.A. came out of the gates channeling a dollar store version of the “7 seconds or less” Suns, hoisting shots early in the clock and with little conscience. Patrick Beverley boinked threes on two early possessions, and after he was eventually yanked and sent to the bench, Russell Westbrook became a turbo brick-layer, failing to connect on his first five attempts from the field.
Meanwhile, Portland had a balanced offensive attack, with Simons and Grant leading the way. The two were effective at getting into the teeth of the Laker defense, drawing all sorts of attention and finding the open man on the perimeter. Winslow knocked down a pair of catch-and-shoot threes, Grant connected twice from range himself and midway through the quarter the Blazers held a 17-6 lead.
But once L.A. started to tighten up the screws on defense, Portland’s momentum evaporated. Grant, Winslow and Jusuf Nurkic continued to fight for low post real estate, but Davis was a tough out and clearly affected several shots. The Lakers won the battle on the boards, and when they didn’t, drew a foul and started getting to the foul line. L.A. was quickly able to find a rhythm and finished the quarter on an 18-5 run to hold a 24-22 lead after one.
LeBron started to take over the Lakers offense in the second quarter, and for the most part, the Blazers just had to buckle up and hold on for dear life. Whether it was acting as a scorer or facilitator, James was able to get his way on just about every possession. He shot 7-8 in the first half for 17 points, 9 of those coming from deep. When James is just as effective from the outside as he is near the basket, he is nigh-impossible to guard. L.A. quickly extended their lead, and after a Davis chip shot, held a 39-31 advantage.
But just when it looked like the Lakers could break Portland spirit and maybe run away with it, the Blazers came storming right back. In an exciting near 8-minute stretch to close the period, Portland doubled their point total, culminating in a thrilling sequence of several highlight plays - an acrobatic reverse finish in traffic by Simons and a skyscraping tomahawk jam putback by Shaedon Sharpe being the crescendo.
An instantly groan-inducing Westbrook three at the buzzer helped to stop the bleeding, but the Blazers went into the locker room trailing by only 4 at 66-62.
Heavy legs may have begun to be a factor in the second half, as the energy that propelled Portland into break seemed nowhere to be found. Sharpe and Jabari Walker helped inject a bit of youthful endurance, but the transition opportunities that opened up the floor for the Blazers earlier were now few and far between. Simons and Grant continued to manufacture buckets at a reasonable rate, but it wasn’t enough outclass James, who continued to be the driving force for L.A.
Portland hung around for about half the period before the James and the Lakers started to pull away. Another, even more groan-inducing three by Westbrook at the buzzer gave L.A. a commanding 97-82 lead heading into the final frame.
The Blazers never really threatened the rest of the way. You don’t want to hear about misery, so let’s just get to...
Stay tuned for our extended recap coming soon!
The Blazers will get a couple days off before traveling to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Jazz Saturday evening. Tip is set for 6 p.m. Pacific.