Road Takes: Blazers survive late Lakers comeback
It wasn’t pretty and it surely wasn’t easy but the Portland Trail Blazers were able to outlast a plucky Los Angeles Lakers team 114-108 for their 14th win of the season.
The Blazers started off on fire, getting off to an 11-0 run to start the game and they led by as much as 17 in the first quarter until the Lakers started making it a game again.
After leading by as much as 16 in Phoenix, the Blazers once again gave up another early double-digit lead on the road as Steve Blake was hitting tough shots and getting everybody on the floor involved for the Lakers.
The Blazers lead shrunk from 17 to three.
The Blazers moved the ball beautifully on offense but missed a lot of shots close to the basket, going 6/15 (40 percent compared to league average 59 percent) on shots inside the restricted area.
Defensively, they struggled for the second consecutive game to guard the three-point line up their early season standards as they gave up 17 in one half and had been giving up 16.5 per game. The Lakers finished with 28 threes on the night.
Then, the third quarter happened as they couldn’t miss a shot as they got anything they wanted. They shot threes, they made everything around the basket and they scored 41 points and carried a 20-point lead into the fourth quarter.
The Blazers have had big leads many times this season before but haven’t done a good job of putting teams away so that they can bring on the bench for garbage time. Once again, they struggled to close out an inferior opponent.
Xavier Henry led a Lakers comeback by attacking the basket in transition, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter on his way to a career-high 27 points and every Laker was getting in on the act. What made Henry’s scoring outburst even worse was that the Blazers couldn’t get any baskets. They struggled getting good looks and the Lakers high pace of play got them back into it.
The Blazers didn’t make a field goal until the 5:31 mark of the fourth with a Mo Williams jumper and the Lakers kept playing hard, as they have the whole season without Kobe Bryant, getting the lead down to one point twice in the last four minutes.
But, once again Damian Lillard was there to change the momentum. Like he did in Toronto in overtime, one shot by Lillard changed the complexion of the game. A three-pointer out of a time-out with 2:53 left but the Blazers up by four and the ever-fearless Wesley Matthews scored five straight points.
The Lakers had to resort to playing the free-throw game and were even the beneficiaries of a rare late-game miss at the charity stripe from Lillard.
Lillard made amends for his missed free-throw by blocking a three-point attempt by Jodie Meeks with 14 seconds left and hitting two free-throws on the following play to put the game away.
Once again, the Blazers struggled to keep drama out of the game’s final moments. That said, they leave Staples Center with eight road wins, which are the most in the NBA. Last year they had 11 total road wins and they are tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the Western Conference.
The team with the NBA’s best record in the Indiana Pacers tomorrow night.