Blazers lock down in 4th quarter for 107-93 win over Lakers
The Portland Trail Blazers never trailed, save for 32 seconds in the first quarter, in Sunday’s 107-93 win over the lowly Los Angeles Lakers. Portland’s Damian Lillard followed up a signature performance on Friday with another as he shined at Staples Center with 30 points and 13 assists. Lillard’s backcourt mate CJ McCollum had a nice game of 19 points, five assists and four rebounds.
This game was a nice follow up by the Blazers to Friday’s win against the Los Angeles Clippers at home. In many ways, this game represented the type of game that a young, talented team would lose. The type of game–like the Detroit Pistons found themselves in last week in the exact same spot–where you can let your guard down. The Blazers didn’t.
Lillard hit a 3-pointer at the beginning of the game off a pin-down and the Blazers never looked back. A pair of D’Angelo Russell free-throws gave the Lakers a brief 2-point lead but the Blazers tied it almost immediately and never trailed for the rest of the game.
It was a near wire-to-wire performance in a spot where teams like them usually let their guard down. Yes, it was the Lakers and their roster is built mostly on five score-first guards. One day, while Kobe can still play, Byron must trot out the Russell-Jordan Clarkson-Kobe–Lou Will–Swaggy line-up and kill analytics in basketball forever. If he doesn’t this will truly be a lost season for the Lakers. All jokes aside, the Lakers had nice moments in this game because they’re full of talent like Clarkson, Russell and Randle. But the Blazers looked like a veteran team against them tonight.
It started with Lillard, an outstanding effort which he sustained throughout the game. After going up against Chris Paul, the Lakers guards must have felt like a spa day. McCollum did his share of scoring and playmaking.
Mason Plumlee played pristine, turnover-free basketball while finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds, his second double-double in two games. It isn’t always pretty with Plumlee, tonight was as good of a combination of smart passing and taking care of the ball as you can ask for. The Lakers may be the league’s least threatening team defensively, with Roy Hibbert no longer being the same ferocious anchor on the defensive end. The Blazers as a team had only 10 turnovers, which is nearly ideal by their standards so far this year.
It’s hard to find too much meaning in a game against the Lakers, though they did play their younger players like Russell more minutes than normal while not running Kobe’s minutes into the high 30’s. Jordan Clarkson got to his spots and hit shots. Kobe’s post-ups were rarely effective as the old desperado chucked up 22 shots, making only 6.
The Blazers did a good job of keeping the Lakers away from the rim, forcing them to win by getting hot from the midrange. The Lakers went 11-for-29 from the midrange, where they took more shots than anywhere else on the court.
The Lakers played into their hands, but the Blazers deserve a lot of credit for this one. After losing 7 straight, the Blazers are on a mini-win streak heading into Tuesday’s game against an experienced but vulnerable Chicago Bulls team at home.
- We had a little bit of a bounce back game from Maurice Harkless tonight. Harkless finished with 10 points and 4 rebounds in 25 minutes of play, the most minutes he’s played since Nov. 5. He had a sweet dunk in transition in the second half and was very aggressive in looking for his shot, far less timid than he has been in past games. This is the Harkless Portland needs. Crabbe has been a bright spot, providing a consistent scoring output and good defense. Harkless needs to bring this effort and confidence on a more consistent basis if the Blazers want to have some success this season.
- All 6 of Portland’s wins so far this season have come against the Western Conference, which may not say what it used to. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban seems to think the Eastern Conference is stronger now and by looking at the race for the final playoff spots in each conference, the Eastern Conference has more teams with winning records. The sense around the league was that the East got much better and in terms of depth, that cannot be denied. The West still has more teams that you would consider title contenders.
- Although I said many times I considered Allen Crabbe a better fit for the Blazers than Gerald Henderson, it’s somewhat surprising how out of sorts he’s looked. Perhaps it shouldn’t be. It’s his first two weeks with his first new team in seven seasons of basketball. But running plays through him is sometimes tough to see.
- The Blazers turned in another solid defensive performance overall and another solid close to the game on the defensive end. One game after holding the Clippers to 18 points in the final period on Friday, the Blazers held the Lakers to 19 points in the 4th quarter Sunday. They rightfully got criticized for their defense during their losing streak–especially after allowing 71 points in a half to Charlotte–but they have rebounded nicely in the last two games. They’re now 20th in the league in defensive efficiency
- Tim Frazier got more minutes tonight. He only played but 30 seconds in their win on Friday after seeing time against the Rockets on Wednesday. Stotts played him in the same spot he did at the end of the Houston game right at the end of the first half. It’s a move that helps get Frazier and his pass-first style of play on the court but it also gets McCollum a nice rest at the end of the half.
- The 3rd quarter was the Lillard and McCollum show. Portland’s dynamic duo combined for 22 of the team’s 28 3rd quarter points.