March 6, 2018, 2:44 am
The Lakers lost at home to the Trail Blazers 108-103 on Monday; ending both their nine-game home win streak and five-game win streak overall.
For the second game in a row Los Angeles came out flat, missing shots, lacking energy and looking stagnant on offense. The Lakers made only 3-of-14 of their first shots, eventually falling behind by as many as 11 points. They relied on their bench to provide a spark again, ending the quarter on an 11-3 run to narrow the deficit to three points.
The same pattern repeated itself in the second quarter as the Trail Blazers opened on a 19-8 run to build a fourteen point lead, their largest of the night. Again the Lakers fought uphill and were able to go into the half down only three points.
The Lakers came out with renewed energy in the third quarter, aggressively attacking Portland on both ends of the court. Their efforts proved fruitful; getting into the bonus with over nine minutes remaining, forcing the Trail Blazers to miss 14-of-16 shots to start the period and building a lead as large as 11 points.
Los Angeles would continue to flirt with a double-digit lead as late as 97-86 with just over five minutes remaining. At that point Damian Lillard took over, leading Portland on a 14-0 run by scoring 11 of those points and assisting on the remaining 3-pointer. He hit three deep 3-pointers before the Lakers were even able to trap him to get the ball out of his hands — they appeared helpless.
Lonzo Ball came up big for the second game in a row, hitting a 3-pointer to tie the game at 103 before Lillard gave Portland the lead for good.
Down the stretch the Lakers simply did not execute. They had poor shot selection, missed open shots, failed to grab multiple defensive rebounds (two in a row with the game on the line), and appeared rushed on the offensive end of the ball, going away from the players who had brought them success earlier in the game. For the first time in a while, did not look prepared to close out a game. Brandon Ingram who has developed into one of their best closers, was sorely missed.
They had every opportunity to win this game. After C.J. McCollum missed a pair of free throws, Portland fouled the Lakers in a dead-ball situation giving them a chance to bring the game to within two. Isaiah Thomas stepped to the free throw line and short-armed it, barely getting the ball to the rim. That shot was emblematic of the Lakers’ effort over the last five minutes as they were like deer frozen in headlights — and Lillard was driving a big truck.
Lillard scored 19 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, single-handedly outscoring the Lakers 19-16 down the stretch and leading the Trail Blazers to victory. He added five rebounds and six assists while shooting 12-of-25 from the field, 6-of-11 from 3-point range and 9-of-12 from the free throw line. He was the best player on the court tonight by far.
He was buttressed by starting backcourt mate McCollum, who added 22 points five rebounds and five assists. Jusuf Nurkic also contributed 16 points, 16 rebounds and three assists.
The Lakers got another solid performance from Julius Randle who tallied 21 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and a plus-7 rating while converting 7-of-13 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. One of the Lakers’ major shortcomings on the evening was only going to Randle once in the entire fourth quarter — he made his only shot in the final frame.
Brook Lopez had one of his best games as a Laker with 14 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks and a plus-3 rating. He shot 5-of-11 from the field, 3-of-4 from the free throw line but only made 1-of-6 from 3-point range. He was particularly stout on the defensive end, acting as a solid defensive anchor and a formidable last line of defense. He too only attempted one shot in the final frame, missing his lone attempt.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led Los Angeles with 41 minutes played and a plus-10 rating on the night. He accumulated 16 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals while knocking down 6-of-14 from the field and 3-of-5 from 3-point range. However, he had a rough end to the game, earning a minus-12 fourth quarter rating and going 0-of-2 from the field including missing a layup with under a minute remaining.
The point guard tandem that carried the Lakers in their win over San Antonio struggled badly tonight. Lonzo Ball opened the game getting called for two questionable fouls, relegating him to the bench with no points, assists or rebounds. He finished the game with 10 points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals and a minus-7 rating (only starter with a negative rating) while shooting 3-of-9 from the field, 3-of-7 from 3-point range and 1-of-3 from the line. He had two key mental mistakes down the stretch: Allowing Lillard a wide-open dribble-up 3-pointer and failing to grab a vital defensive rebound on a missed shot.
Thomas had a rough night as well, shooting a miserable 5-of-21 from the field and 1-of-9 from 3-point range. He missed the aforementioned free throw as well as failed to get off a shot on the Lakers’ final possession. He forced the issue a bit in the fourth quarter, shooting nine times but only converting two of his attempts. Although he accrued 19 points and seven assists, he had a game worst minus-17 rating.
Kyle Kuzma added 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks while shooting just 4-of-10 from the field. He appears to have lost some of his aggressiveness as he has not made three free throws in a game since January 23.
Key Stats and Observations
-After holding Portland to 15 points in the third quarter, the Lakers conceded 35 fourth quarter points.
-Lillard started the fourth quarter only 2-of-6 from 3-point range but finished the game by making 4-of-5 from deep, many of them several feet behind the 3-point line.
-The Lakers ended the third period with a 13-5 edge in turnovers but choked the game away, committing six turnovers to just one for the Trail Blazers.
-Los Angeles came into the game on fire from the field and 3-point range in particular. They were unable to continue their momentum, shooting 34-of-86 from the field (39.5 percent) and 11-of-37 from 3-point range (29.7 percent).
-Portland shot better from 3-point range than they did from 2-point range, knocking down 10-of-23 from deep (43.5 percent) and only 25-of-60 (41.7 percent) on the rest of their shots.
-Los Angeles came into the game leading the league with over 53 points in the paint per game but was held in check in that regard, scoring just 40 points in the paint tonight.
The Lakers host the Orlando Magic on Wednesday with a chance to return to their winning ways. Los Angeles also has a chance to avenge an embarrassing loss from earlier this season in which they were thoroughly outplayed to the tune of 127-105.
Orlando recently got back Nikola Vucevic, who missed six weeks with a broken hand. Vucevic averages 17.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.
They also feature exciting young forward Aaron Gordon who leads them with 18.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.