Lillard and Trent can’t outscore the Lakers by themselves

by Kevin Nesgoda

On Friday night the struggling Blazers came into the cold and blustery Los Angeles area to take on the equally cold Lakers. Both teams are feeling the results of the injury bug (because the season was rushed to start) and both are looking a little heavy in the legs. The Lakers were losers of four in a row, while Portland had lost their last three after winning six straight.

The Blazers came out flat in the third quarter and could never inflate.

Portland falls 102-93 tonight.

First Quarter Thoughts

I’m shocked that they called a travel on LeBron James to start the game. He always gets away with steps and it was called after Derrick Jones Jr. slapped him on the side of the head on a shot attempt too.

The Blazers quickly jump out in front 7-2 on a three by Gary Trent Jr. and a dunk by Derrick Jones Jr. LeBron on the other end once again tries to bully his way into the paint on DJJ, gets their pretending he’s Shaq in 2001, but he did a no-no in bringing the ball down and DJJ’s quick hands slap the ball away. While LeBron is complaining he didn’t get a foul, the Blazers miss a shot in the paint, but Jones snags the ball, kicks it out to Damian Lillard who hits a three.

Blazers are up 10-2 and it forces the Lakers to call a timeout.

Really hoping Dame has a strong start to the game tonight. He’s been off to slow starts in the last couple of weeks. Tonight while driving to get dinner outside of LA I saw a car that had an “I heart Dame” license plate in front of me. Then I looked up and saw Lillard decked out in Lakers’ gold.

Damn near a road rage incident on T.O. Boulevard. Good thing my wife and dogs were with me.

This game has such a weird feel to it. I think there would have been a lot more running by both teams to start the game looking to get a knockout blow to start the game. Instead, both teams have pushed the momentum and have tripped themselves up early. With a touch over three minutes left in the quarter, the Lakers have four turnovers and the Blazers have three. It really feels like both teams are already approaching double digits in that category.

Then again, but I don’t know about the rest of you, but this has just been a weird week.

Dennis Schroder annoys the crap out of me. I will give him credit for his ability to really work the pick and roll and the way he attacks Enes Kanter after the pick. He gets right into the lane and has really good control over his awkward floater. That shot has no business going in, but it usually does. A minute later he knocks down a three.

Let’s talk about Terry Stotts defensive decisions. To close the quarter Carmelo Anthony got the defensive assignment on the hot Schroder. A weird decision since the Lakers were running the pick and roll and getting Kanter to switch off on to Schroder in the first place. Now Melo is playing off Schroder and waiting for the pick to come and on this play, it’s not coming. Schroder pulls up for three and knocks it down. The ball was almost to the hoop before Melo reacted.

It was a weird choice. I would have gone with Rodney Hood or Nassir Little on the assignment.

Whatever, Terry Stotts is a defensive mastermind and an NBA coach while I’m a basketball blogger.

Blazers up 29-24 after one.

Second Quarter Thoughts

Rodney Hood knocks down a three to start the second quarter. Really need to get a good game out of Hood tonight. Well, need to get a good game out of the depleted Blazers bench tonight. Anfernee Simons calls glass on a prayer three over Montrezl Harrell and the ultra annoying Alex Caruso.

Derrick Jones Jr. is full of hustle tonight. I swear he already has 87 offensive rebounds five minutes into the second. He’s gotten a few defensive rebounds as well and tipped a few to teammates. This is what I’ve been waiting for from Jones for the entire year. He was supposed to come in and be a disruptor. I think it took a bit longer for him to gel and find his role within the team.

Hopefully, CJ McCollum has learned how to play defense while his foot heals.

LeBron James doing some LeBron James things and gets the Lakers within a point, this causes Stotts to bring Lillard in a bit earlier than he likes. Harrell finishes an and-1 to give the Lakers a two-point lead as they go on an 11-0.

During this stretch, the Lakers were playing a lot more physically and I think there were some fouls that should have been called. Lillard is the only superstar in the league to get hammered on a consistent basis and not get calls. It really has to be frustrating for him to get leveled on one end and then pick up a touch foul on the other end.

He’s got 20 points so far in the half. His defense is just outscore his man by forty. It works for him. I’d say that I love for him to pick up the defensive tenacity like another Oakland native, Gary Payton, but that type of defense (or any kind of defense) is no longer allowed in the NBA.

Along the lines of defense, Robert Covington has been a pretty big disappointment so far for the Blazers. His defense hasn’t been anywhere near where it has been for him in previous years, his shot is off, and he’s not really rebounding. There are periods of time that I have no idea if he’s on the court or not. I’d say the Blazers should buy him out, but we all know they wouldn’t sign anyone to replace him and let Melo play 35+ minutes a night.

Lillard finally gets a call while being fouled on a three. It’s because Horton-Tucker slid under Dame on his way down, and Lillard landed on his foot, twisting his ankle a bit. The way he landed I thought he might have torn his Achilles.

Damn near gave me a heart attack.

Before the last-second tip in to end the second half, Enes Kanter had been 1-6 in the paint tonight. Every single one of his shots has been hard off the front rim. It’s not like the Lakers are shoving him hard out of the paint on his shots either. He’s been pretty open, just bricking each and every shot.

Speaking of bricking everything.

The Blazers’ bench has been more trash than Kyle Kuzma tonight. Lillard has outscored the bench 24-8 in the half. Gary Trent Jr. was the only other Blazer player to score in double figures with 10 points.

Halftime Thoughts

I’m thankful I didn’t have to see Caruso or Schroder over halftime.

Also, this halftime seemed pretty short.

Third Quarter Thoughts

Terry Stotts once again gave the team Ambien over half and instead of breaking down defensive breakdowns, he told them a story about a floofy rabbit, and they all had six minutes in a REM cycle before they were rushed out to start the third quarter.

Blazers have three turnovers and have given up seven points in the first two and a half minutes of the third quarter.

This Ambien and storytime theory is the best one I have as to why Portland is so bad time after time in the third quarter. There is no real reason for this. It really can’t be that the other team makes proper adjustments and Stotts doesn’t at the half, can it?

The Lakers also have Schroder and Caruso out together to start the third quarter. There are many reasons that I think Frank Vogel is a bad coach and this is one of them.

After Covid wraps up and things can get back to normal, if I saw Alex Caruso out on the street I may bump into him just to see if he falls down and tries to get a foul called on me.

We’re about eight minutes through the third quarter and the Blazers now have six turnovers and hey look at that. That three-point lead at the half has turned into a six-point deficit.

The Lakers are out hustling the Blazers on both ends of the floor, knocking down threes, getting steals, Alex Caruso dunking and screaming on fools. This is not what you are supposed to do in a third quarter. All one of you youth coaches out there who reads this, record the Blazer third quarters, and show this to your eight-year-old second grade team. Let’s start to get to them at a young age and teach them to not ever suck in the third quarter.

This shot chart is a lot more kind than it actually appeared for the Blazers in the third.


Portland 3rd quarter shot chart against the Lakers.

Portland 3rd quarter shot chart against the Lakers.

Fourth Quarter Thoughts

After three minutes into the fourth, the Blazers have not picked things up at all from their terrible third quarter performance. The Lakers pushed their lead out to 15 points with LeBron James on the bench. With seven minutes left in the game, the Blazers had more turnovers (15) than bench points (13).

The Blazers are a step slow.

Example: The Blazers ran a high double pick and roll with Lillard, Kanter, and Covington. Lillard had both Caruso and Morris follow him as he dove to the sideline. He stopped and passed to Covington at the top of the three-point line. LeBron dove out at Covington who held the ball instead of passing to a wide-open Gary Trent Jr on the wing. Morris was still on Dame when LeBron came out and crowded Covington’s right side. Trent was on his left. By the time Covington looked to pass, Morris was back on Trent, and Portland ended up turning the ball over.

A possession later Covington took a three from almost forty feet while double-teamed with over six seconds on the shot clock. This was the point in the game where it was pretty much over. The body language of the Blazers changed.

And that was the game.

BOX SCORE

Next Up

The Blazers get the weekend off before taking on the Charlotte Hornets on Monday at 7:00 PM.

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