The Portland Trail Blazers saw their disappointing road trip come to a fitting conclusion on Wednesday night, falling to the Los Angeles Lakers by a final score of 99-94. The defeat was their third consecutive, and fifth in the last six games overall. The Blazers shook off a dreadful start to make things competitive, but sloppy play plagued both teams throughout the night. In the end, the Lakers cleaned things up enough down the stretch to pull away with the victory.
In a game where headliners LeBron James and Damian Lillard were out due to injury, it was Anthony Davis (30 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks) and Norman Powell (30 points, five rebounds) who led their respective teams. Davis played a particularly key role during the Lakers’ fourth quarter run in which they outscored Portland 27-19.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the action, see our Instant Recap. Here were the key storylines from the game.
Overcoming Tough Start
The Blazers couldn’t hit water with a boat in the first quarter, despite plenty of good looks. They had just 16 points after the opening frame, going 0-8 from three, while also missing a number of lay-ups at the rim. Things clicked in the second quarter, as the shots started falling. They were 8-13 from distance, with center Jusuf Nurkic even getting in on the action with a pair of triples. Anfernee Simons also came alive with 13 points, shaking off a rough shooting start of his own.
In addition to the improved offense in the second quarter, Portland’s aggressive defense forced seven steals in the first half alone, keeping the Lakers from running away with the game despite shooting over 50% from the field. L.A. led by just a single point at the half, despite their early double-digit lead.
Late Game Execution
While turnovers plagued the Lakers all night, it was the Blazers who couldn’t take care of the rock in the fourth quarter, despite having committed just two turnovers in the entire first half. Combined with a resumed cold spell from the field, they didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with Davis and the Lakers down the stretch, with only Powell able to find any kind of rhythm. Davis struggled at the rim, but excelled in the midrange against a sagging Blazer defense. He also pulled down a pair of critical offensive rebounds in the closing minutes to extend key possessions, and was able to help ice the game away at the foul line.
Portland got one final crack at getting back in the game after Malik Monk missed a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left and the Lakers up four. CJ McCollum drew a foul on the other end with eight seconds remaining, but hit just one-of-two from the line in an overall rough shooting night. The Lakers ran seven seconds off the clock on the ensuing inbounds before Portland was able to foul, and Monk redeemed himself with a pair of makes to close the door shut.
Also contributing to Portland’s downfall was the uneventful second half of Nurkic, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds at the half, but only finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds on the night—taking just three shot attempts in the second half. His three turnovers all came in the fourth quarter, as the Lakers sent an extra man at him on his post-up attempts, after he dominated one-on-one in the early going.
While Davis turned things on later in the game, it was former Blazer Carmelo Anthony who served as the Lakers’ offensive catalyst for much of the night. Melo got off to a tremendous start in the first quarter, scoring 10 points in the frame on 4-4 shooting. He finished with a highly efficient 24 points on 8-12 shooting, including 5-6 shooting. The performance was needed, as Russell Westbrook shot just 3-12 from the floor, and no other Laker besides Davis scored more than 11 points.
The Blazers return home to host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night at 7 p.m. PT, looking to avenge a tough loss in OKC earlier in the week.