Looking for their sixth-straight win, the Portland Trail Blazers (41-19), riding the return of LaMarcus Aldridge and Meyers Leonard in a Saturday win over the Denver Nuggets, had to face the Los Angeles Lakers (21-39) in an always heated rivalry at the Moda Center. Without aging stars Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash and a dash of other actual good/decent players, the Lakers rely on guys named Kendall Marshall, Kent Bazemore, Wesley Johnson to help Pau Gasol. So far this season is pretty much done for the Lakers; they are second to dead last in the Western Conference and likely heading to the lottery. Enjoying this nice stretch of home games before the dreaded return to the Texas Triangle, the Blazers were hoping to pounce on another opportunity and earn another win over Los Angeles.
That didn’t happen. The Lakers had nothing to lose, so they played with their hearts on their sleeves and busted their balls all night long. So much so the Blazers either didn’t have the focus to take care of business. Portland had one of their worst performances of the season: chuck full of terrible defense, tons of lazy turnovers, and the Lakers built a 15-point lead. Portland would struggle all night to pull anywhere close but the Lakers always had a response, and a last-second alley-oop tip from Wesley Johnson seals a 107-106 win for the bad guys in purple. This one hurts.
If you haven’t followed the Blazers this season, the same-old custom of playing a terrible first-half was alive and well. They played with no effort or care that the Lakers went on a quick 11-3 run to start the game and the crowd of “Laker fans” were louder than the Moda Center crowd. Portland had nine turnovers in the first quarter alone, and the Lakers took full advantage on the fast break, wide-open lay ups, open three-pointers and the Blazers defense was literally non-existent. Los Angeles took a 63-56 lead at the half, and it wouldn’t get better.
The Blazers would try to cut into the lead anyway they could but again and again the Lakers had an answer. The Lakers went on a scoring drought, which was the perfect time to gain ground, and the Blazers were only down three. Los Angeles took an automatic timeout and the next possession, Kent Bazemore nails a three and Gasol flips in an open lay up in the paint and go back up seven. Bazemore connects on another three and the home crowd and Twitter is getting pretty frustrated with every bad Blazer possession. Portland spends the fourth quarter on the heels, cutting the lead back to three, two and one, until Wesley Matthews ties it at 103 with less than a minute left. After a Laker miss, Damian Lillard is sent to the foul line and goes 1-1 and on his second miss he runs after the ball to grab his own rebound. Portland got off a terrible shot and Nicolas Batum hip-checks on the fast break, as the ball went out-of-bounds with seven seconds, and the refs went to replay and kept things on the Lakers side. The Lakers caught Portland sleeping and lobbed it inbound to Wesley Johnson with Rip City in disbelief. With six seconds left to win the game, Lillard takes the ball one-on-one and is forced to chuck up a three-pointer at the buzzer that was pretty short. Portland stayed on the floor to argue a goaltending call but the damage was properly done.
Who Was Hot
- LaMarcus Aldridge scored a team-high 21 points to go along with his six rebounds, one assist and four turnovers on 9-19 shooting.
- Robin Lopez was the man in the paint and had dunks on dunks on dunks in the first half but the Blazers opted to get their shooters going. He had 19 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks on 9-13 shooting.
- Damian Lillard goes for 20 points, five assists, five rebounds and four turnovers but really struggled from the field, going 8-19 shooting and was hounded at the three-point line and couldn’t get one open shot.
- Dorell Wright only had eight points and two rebounds off the bench but he and Lopez were the best defensive players, he only had one official steal but forced a couple on the other side.
Who Was Not
Everything. Everything hurts.
- Three-point shooting: Lakers 8-18 – Blazers 9-29
- Free throws: Lakers 13-15 – Blazers 11-19 (This one really doomed Portland, Batum missed two straight at Portland’s first trip and the rest of the team followed suit.)
- Assists: Lakers 29 – Blazers 22
- Steals: Lakers 12 – Blazers 8
- Turnovers: Lakers 16 – Blazers 20
- Points in the paint: Lakers 58 – Blazers 40
- Points off turnovers: Lakers 18 – Blazers 13
- Fast break points: Lakers 32 – Blazers 9
Highlight of the night
Robin Lopez took to the sky for this slam dunk that woke up the home crowd. Sadly afterwards, the Lakers hit a three to respond and the nightmare continued.
Get some sleep and eat a pint of Cold Stone, Blazer fans. Portland gets a day off tomorrow and the Atlanta Hawks arrive to the Moda Center on Wednesday. You can bet the Blazers will be feisty and be pissed off to take their anger on them.