The Lakers…this season…in Portland. This game had “loss” written all over it, and if you say you knew they’d win, you’re lying. Of all places NOT to look for a victory, the Moda Center (formerly the Rose Garden) was it, but something funny happened to start the game tonight – the Lakers played defense. And not just a few moments of defense – we’re talking defense throughout a good part of the game, even, and especially when the Blazers caught up and overtook the lead.
Led by Pau Gasol, the Lakers pounded the paint (a rarity), and got up to a 15-point lead in the first quarter. Cue shocked face here. If it was in any other arena, it wouldn’t be so surprising, but given the bad luck they’ve had here, it was only natural to believe they’d figure out a way to lose anyway.
But they didn’t. They only won that first quarter, but stayed within a certain amount of points at the end of each 12 minutes of game time. Despite losing the lead with just over 30 seconds left in the game, they managed to pull out one more play that got them the 107-106 win.
Offense – The Lakers outscored the Trail Blazers in the paint 58-40. It’s an area they never (okay, perhaps maybe a handful of times) dominate. It’s no secret that their offense this season is perimeter-based, so scoring inside often isn’t the first priority. Tonight, however, it’s like they decided to forego that plan and feed it to the big men, or cutters to the hoop, and it paid off. They Lakers also won the fast break contest 13-0 in the first quarter, and 32-9 for the game. The Blazers had 20 turnovers that helped, 12 of which are thanks to Lakers’ steals. Also helpful in the offense’s success was the team’s ball movement. They had 29 assists on 43 made field goals.
Defense – The Blazers were outscored 33-20 in the first quarter, which helped the Lakers as the game went on. They intercepted passes, picking up 12 steals for the night. They also outrebounded Portland in the first three quarters.
Starters – Four starters scored in double figures in points, and one starter handed out double-digit assists. Gasol led the team with 22 points on 10-20 from the field, He also grabbed nine rebounds, handed out five assists, took two steals and blocked two shots. It was a great overall game for the Spaniard. Not to be outdone, Jodie Meeks scored 21 points on 8-16 from the field, He went just 2-6 from three, but led the team in the +/- column with his +11. Kent Bazemore and Wesley Johnson chipped in 14 points apiece, with Johnson grabbing seven boards, handing out four assists, taking two steals and blocking a pair of shots. Kendall Marshall is going through a bit of a scoring slump, but that hasn’t stopped him from contributing to the team as much as he can. He doled out a game-high 11 assists.
Bench – They outscored Portland’s reserves 29-22, taking Jordan Farmar’s lead, who also handed out six assists.
Win – A win is a win, but a win in Portland will always be something to remember.
Fourth Quarter – The final stretch of tonight’s game played out just like a lot of the Lakers’ losses. They didn’t shoot efficiently, especially towards the end, and when they needed to rebound most, they failed. They were about even on the boards going into the final quarter, and then were outrebounded 18-8. They gave up eight offensive rebounds that helped Portland with nine second-chance points. The Lakers were holding on to an 11-point lead with seven and a half minutes left in the game. In Those final minutes, the Blazers not only caught them on the scoreboard, but surpassed them by a point. A Damian Lillard free throw put Portland up 106-105. In what was the Lakers’ final possession of the game, Bazemore inbounded a lob that Johnson caught at just the right moment for a lay-in, and the team went up 107-106. With some tight defense from Meeks on Lillard, the Lakers managed to escape with a win on the road.
It’s no winning streak, but the Lakers did win back-to-back games. For a long-suffering fan base, it was a good game to watch. Up are Anthony Davis and the Pelicans tomorrow at Staples Center.