Just one night after their second half collapse against the Los Angeles Clippers at home, the Portland Trail Blazers were blown out by Southern California’s other team on Wednesday night. With the setting shifted to L.A., the Blazers fell 128-109 to the Los Angeles Lakers for their third consecutive loss, and seventh in their last eight games overall.
After an offensive explosion from both teams in the second quarter, the Lakers held a four-point lead at the half. They dominated after the break behind LeBron James, who finished with 31 points, seven rebounds and and eight assists in an extremely efficient scoring display.
Jerami Grant led the short-handed Blazers with 27 points, and while four of his teammates finished in double-figures as well, the team’s lackluster defensive effort was too much to overcome. Anfernee Simons added 22 points and eight assists.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap. Here were the key takeaways from Wednesday night’s action.
Two of the most consequential plays of the night came on a pair of buzzer-beating three-pointers from Laker guard Russell Westbrook—who’s shooting struggles are among the most well-documented in recent league history. While his step-back 30-footer to end the second quarter stung, it was his half-court heave to finish the third quarter that proved to be the final nail in Portland’s coffin. The shot put L.A. up 15 heading into the fourth, and the Blazers were never able to get the deficit back to single-digits.
The King and His Court
LeBron James turned in a vintage performance, despite taking (and making) just a single shot in the first quarter. From there, he attacked the rim with ease and was deadly from distance, going 6-8 from beyond the arc for a team that entered the night shooting just 32% from three—tied for second-worst in the entire league. They shot 38% from three as a team.
It wasn’t just a one-man show, however. Anthony Davis shook off a quiet start to finish with 27 points and 12 rebounds, while Austin Reaves scored a season-high 22 points on 7-10 shooting. It was Reaves who got the Lakers going after the Blazers jumped out to an early double-digit lead. He was particularly adept at getting to the foul line, where the Lakers thrived in the first quarter.
With Josh Hart out due to an ankle sprain suffered against the Clippers on Tuesday, 6’8” Trendon Watford was inserted into the starting lineup. This marked the tallest opening unit the Blazers have featured this season, with Jerami Grant sliding from the power forward to small forward role. The 6’6” Justise Winslow once again filled in for the injured Damian Lillard in the backcourt.
Watford performed admirably—netting a double-double—but the overall results didn’t go as one would expect with a bigger lineup. The Blazers were out rebounded by the Lakers, allowing 26 second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds alone, and struggled all night to defend the paint. Coupled with the Lakers’ surprisingly hot shooting from outside the arc, it was a recipe for disaster.
In addition, it was a night to forget from center Jusuf Nurkic, who was just 2-8 from the field, despite nearly all of his looks coming just a few feet from the basket.
Rook Bounces Back
On an overall disappointing night, the re-emergence of rookie Shaedon Sharpe was certainly a positive development for Portland. After a rough stretch over the last two weeks, Sharpe erupted for 16 points on 7-12 shooting in 28 minutes, punctuated by a highlight-reel put-back slam.
SHAEDON SHARPE OMG pic.twitter.com/WnqZf4fYck— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 1, 2022
Unfortunately for the Blazers, Sharpe provided virtually the only production off of Portland’s bench. Nassir Little missed the game due to a hip injury, and early foul trouble limited Drew Eubanks and Jabari Walker to just 14 minutes apiece. Greg Brown III was pressed into action, and went 0-4 from the field in eight minutes, along with a pair of blocks.
Justise is Served
The Blazers got an unexpected offensive hero on Wednesday, as Justise Winslow scored a season-high 21 points on 9-11 shooting. Even more impressive, he was a perfect 3-3 from the three-point line, serving as the catch-and-shoot outlet for driving playmakers. If he can maintain anywhere near that kind of production as the team gets healthier, it will provide a major boost to a Blazer bench that ranks dead last in scoring in the NBA.
The Blazers (11-11) head to Salt Lake City for a date with the Utah Jazz on Saturday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. PT from Vivint Arena.