Blazers let Game 3 slip away to Lakers, 116-108

by Kevin Nesgoda

Thursday night the Portland Trail Blazers did not show up to play in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers. The whole Blazer team looked tired, disinterested, and like they spent all day before the game drinking of CJ McCollum’s wine. There was zero excuse for their poor effort.

Game 3 started off a lot differently. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were red hot in the first quarter, leading the Blazers to a four point lead in the first, but after that the Lakers chipped away at the Blazers with a big 29 point half by LeBron James, and then the inability to stop Anthony Davis in the third and fourth quarters led them to a 116-108 victory.

Portland was outscored by 15 in the second half until Gary Trent Jr. and CJ made a couple baskets that didn’t really matter.

Blazers had 34 from Lillard, 26 from CJ, and a big 20 from Melo.

LeBron had 38 and Anthony Davis had 29, 25 coming in the second half.

First Quarter Thoughts

Portland’s defense looks a lot more active early. They are forcing the Lakers into bad passes and playing strong in the lane. Anthony Davis isn’t getting easy looks like last game with both Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside starting side by side tonight. I have worries about that lineup when they move Davis to the five and have four other shooters on the floor. On Thursday night Terry Stotts did not counter that lineup at all and the Lakers killed Portland from the three point line. Stotts isn’t known for his in game adjustments, but he has to be better at this in Game 3.

Damian Lillard does not look injured at all. He’s got his left index finger taped up to his middle finger. His shot looks so pure tonight. So far it has the perfect arc, perfect rotation, and it’s coming from everywhere on the floor.

Terry Stotts is also making the Blazers run some offense tonight. They aren’t just running high pick and rolls, but there are a lot of back door screens, double screens off the ball, and this has freed up CJ McCollum for easier looking shots. CJ is 3-4 with an early seven points. He’s only averaging 17 for the series, so this is big for Portland.

The Blazers defense tonight is a lot more active. They are helping, but not getting out of position. Lillard has really active hands and he is the one doubling on Anthony Davis. This is making Davis uncomfortable and he’s having issues controlling the ball.

It appears that Stotts does have a strategy with lineups tonight. It looks like Carmelo Anthony is matching LeBron, while when the Lakers move Davis to the five we are seeing a center and four guys who can cover the perimeter. I expected Stotts to make some of these moves tonight, but I didn’t think they’d be this smart. I half expected him to double-down and maybe run a third center out there for some reason.

Portland looked good while all the starters were out there, but when Mario Hezonja came into the game things changed. And not for the better. Portland’s bench only had two points in the combined 14 minutes they were out there in the first quarter.

Lillard had 14 points and Blazes led 29-25 after the first quarter.

Second Quarter Thoughts

Portland and CJ ran an ISO play to start the quarter and to my surprise CJ knocked down a three. He did it again a minute later and CJ has 13 already for the night. The Lakers were playing JR Smith mostly on him to start the quarter, but after eight points in two minutes the Lakers move the younger and more athletic Kyle Kuzma over to CJ. CJ proceeded to miss his next two shots.

LeBron James is looking to control this game with his scoring. He’s attacking all levels of the Blazers defense and has been to the line eight times already. The rest of the Lakers are not making shots at the moment.

James is not letting Gary Trent Jr. guard him on the outside tonight. He’s taking him right to the post every single time tonight. James proceeds to deliver body shot after body shot to Trent. Portland has helped well. Anfernee Simons had a solid steal on a James post up that led to Carmelo Anthony getting his first basket of the night.

Anthony has been playing some good defense tonight. He’s been really good keeping Anthony Davis in check tonight. He’s making Davis do the exact opposite of what he normally wants to do. He’s really getting jammed up tonight.

Portland is pushing the ball a little bit more than normal off Laker misses. This has led to some easier baskets for the Blazers. The latest being a four on two that results in a wide open Damian Lillard letting Anthony Davis wildly fly by him and knocking down a wide open three pointer.

Lillard is also playing inside a little bit more than normal. He’s posted up Alex Caruso a few times already with some solid success. He’s taking a page out of Melo’s playbook and it’s working out. he then attempted to see if Anthony Davis had a pulse and tried to dunk on him like Shawn Kemp did to Alton Lister back in the 90’s.

Davis blocked the dunk, but it was really aggressive and I’m here for it.

We’re shaping up to see a game of superstars. So far only LeBron James is the only one doing anything for the Lakers and CJ and Dame are the only one’s doing anything for the Blazers. All the role players for both teams are not doing anything in their roles.

The Lakers shot 31 (missing 11) free throws compared to the Blazers eight in the half. Haven’t seen this big of a free throw disparity since Game 7 of the 1993 Western Conference Finals.

Third Quarter Thoughts

The Lakers immediately hit a three to open third quarter scoring. LeBron hits another on the next possession and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hits his second of the quarter to give the Lakers a 67-64 lead three and a half minutes into the third quarter.

Jusuf Nurkic showed some aggressiveness on a huge dunk where he was hit multiple times. It should have been an And-1, but since Nurk wasn’t wearing purple jersey it was not a foul. The reffing has been an absolute joke and heavily favored to the Lakers side for the entire series.

LeBron James picked up the fourth foul on Carmelo Anthony early and after that Melo seemed to get really upset. He knocked down a corner three and then hit five straight mid range jumpers to get him 13 quick points in the corner. I don’t think any of his shots hit the net.

Not only is Melo having a solid scoring night, but his passing has been top notch too. He’s had some gorgeous passes that resulted in dunks for both Nurk and Whiteside.

The Lakers are getting Anthony Davis rolling in the third quarter. The Blazers are playing off him because they are scared to even touch him because every time they have they have been called for a foul. They are letting him take uncontested jumpers and he’s hitting them unlike the first half. Going to need some sort of change going into the fourth quarter. They aren’t being as physic
al or switching with him like they did in the first half. That’s what got him out of sorts, and of course the Blazers don’t continue with something that works.

Lillard had a quick eight points in the final minutes of the third quarter to keep the Blazers in it. He kept the lead from being in double-digits. If it wasn’t for him the Lakers would be looking to close things out early in the fourth.

Fourth Quarter Thoughts

Jusuf Nurkic has been absent for most of this game. He came into the fourth with only four points and four rebounds in 23 minutes. He had been a crucial part of the Blazers throughout the seeding games and the play-in against Memphis. Against the Lakers he has been pretty much a non-factor. The Blazers rely on him for rebound, defense, and at least 15 points a game. For whatever reason he hasn’t been able to do that against the past their prime JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard.

The Blazers really do need Nurk to step up for the rest of this series. He’s letting guys guide him out of the lane. They aren’t even pushing him or shoving him. He’s allegedly the Bosnian Beast. He needs to be in there crushing ribs and making things hard on opposing big on both sides of the court.

So far in the fourth he has a big rebound, a changed shot, and two big dunks.

The Lakers continue to get easy baskets in the quarter. Dwight Howard has two dunks and Anthony Davis has another one. Two of the dunks were uncontested.

The Blazers, Nurk especially, continued to let Anthony Davis take wide open 15-20 foot jumpers. He wasn’t hitting any rim on any of the shots. He went from not being able to find the bottom of the net in the first half because the defense was different each time he touched the ball. The second half the Blazers played off his front and let him shoot jumpers which he happily hit.

The game really started to break down in the fourth quarter. Both teams really had a hard time knocking down shots late. They both looked tired and there was a points in the game where only three guys for each team made it across half court. One time it was three on three for about twenty seconds.

The effort from the Blazers in the fourth was just pathetic. They usually bounce back after bad third quarters, but they looked gassed once again. The lack of depth is really starting to get to them.

Next Up

Game 4 is on Monday at 6:00 PM PST.

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