After three games, the Lakers have still not secured a victory.
The Los Angeles Lakers went down in another close game; this time, it was against the Blazers, 106-104.
The game started out sloppily enough. The Lakers did continue to play some good defense, carrying over from their effort against the Clippers. But the Blazers mucked it up themselves. Both teams combined for 14 turnovers as Portland led, 32-24.
The sloppy play continued for both teams in the second quarter. LeBron James then started playing a little bully ball as the Lakers cut the deficit down to three. What was not great was the Lakers, as expected, couldn’t hit from three. I cackled loudly every time they put up a three; my neighbors thought I was insane. At that point, it felt like I was watching a sitcom as a horrible laugh track played in my head every time the Lakers bricked a three (or in LeBron’s case, a hilarious airball from the logo). They only made one three out of 16 three-pointers in that first half (a very tidy .063).
On the other side, Damian Lillard played off the ball a lot and, as a result, he scored 21 points in the first two quarters. They were up, 55-48, at the half.
The Lakers took over the third quarter as their defense ramped up and Anthony Davis started dominating on both ends. He made three straight dunks and was packing everyone in sight (he ended with 6 blocks in this game). The Lakers also somehow made some threes (and to be fair, the shot selection was a little better here). They were 5 for 13 (.385) from downtown as the Lakers outscored Portland, 35-23, in the third.
We were also seeing fundamental but effective ball movement in the fourth quarter. There was a nice bounce pass from the pick-and-roll from Anthony Davis to Troy Brown, Jr. We also got a fantastic give-and-go by LeBron and Brown. With the Portland turnovers mounting and the Laker lead increasing, it felt like the Lakers were finally going to get a win.
It was 102-95, Lakers, with under two minutes left. And this was where the Lakers didn’t take care of business. After Lillard made free throws, Patrick Beverley missed a three. A Nusuf Jurkic putback cut the deficit to 102-99. After a missed LeBron three, Anfernee Simons was able to lay it in to cut it to 102-101. The Lakers slowed down as if to call a timeout but nothing happened and Russell Westbrook tried to take advantage by shooting a midrange jumper. It missed badly. The Blazers got the ball back and Nurkic was whistled for an illegal screen on Beverley. However, the call was challenged and official Ed Malloy said that “Beverley took a dive.” Ouch. The Blazers kept possession.
We had a little back-and-forth after. Lillard made a clutch three with 12 seconds left to give Portland a two-point advantage. Then in the next possession, the Red Sea parted as LeBron easily got free from the big man, Nurkic.
However, Jerami Grant attacked both LeBron and Davis and made a tough lay-up to give the Blazers back the lead. In the final possession, LeBron missed a turnaround jumper that felt a bit unbalanced as he left the ground.
The Lakers ball movement, aggressive defense (Blazers had 19 turnovers compared to 13 by L.A.), and paint attack (Lakers had the advantage in points in the paint, 66-38) kept them in it as they continuously played house with those bricked threes. The third quarter, however, has easily been the best period the Lakers have had in this short season. LeBron went for an incredible 31-8-8 while Davis continues his great play with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Lonnie Walker provided 15 points and some nice hustle. Westbrook still struggled from the field but once again, his energy at the defensive end has been great. Of course, we’re all going to look at that 6 for 33 (.182) mark from three.
As for Portland, Lillard scored his second consecutive 41-point game; he’s just that hard to stop. Grant went for 16 points, which included the game-winner. And the Blazers dominated the boards, 52-40, as ex-Laker Josh Hart grabbed 16 rebounds and Nurkic got 13.
Another missed opportunity for the Los Angeles Lakers. They’ll try to end their skid on Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets.