Jubilation turns to frustration as the Blazers and Lakers get on board

the Portland Trail Blazers One of the best quarters in recent memory was played against Los Angeles Lakers Sunday evening at the Moda Center. Defeating LeBron James 45-13 and his buddies will go down in history for their admiration. Unfortunately, going down in the first period muted the significance of the achievement, and having a score of 75-41 in the second half obliterated it completely. Infernee Simmons led the Blazers with 31 points on 7-13 shooting from long range and Damian Lillard added 24, but it wasn’t enough to put Portland ahead of the Lakers. The Blazers fell 121-112 when James scored 37 and Thomas Bryant quarterback Anthony Davis scored 31.

Portland scored 17 break points, but gave 21 to Los Angeles, as well as 68 points in the paint. Even hitting 7 times more than their opponent wasn’t enough to stave off defeat under the circumstances.

Here’s how the game went, quarter by quarter.

First Quarter

The game started out problematic for the Blazers. LeBron James cut the pass for a dunk, then Thomas Bryant hit a three. Dennis Schroeder boxed a mid-range jumper, then James hit another thirty in a row. To top it off, Bryant cut the pass for a tying foul and made two free throws. This wasn’t their first run, mind you, it was The first three minutes. A base jump from Damian Lillard and a drive from Anfernee Simons were poor compensation. Los Angeles leads 15-4 at the 9:00 mark.

Then Bryant hit three more. Ugh.

Some measure of sanity returned after an 18-4 start. The Lakers are beginning to normalize on their three-point attempts, which for them means missing a few. Portland rebounded and ran against their larger opponents, eventually putting the points on the board. The quick offense brought the scoreboard to 22-11 by the 6:00 mark. It was strange to breathe a sigh of relief at the double, but the start of the game was much worse, and it was understandable, too.

Josh Hart provided a spark during Portland’s comeback. His breakthrough caused the defense to collapse. If he doesn’t score, he’s itching to open the pitchers and even hit three. The Blazers got the lead to 5, 22-17, before the Lakers recalled going back inside against a Portland-soaked tissue paper lane defense. Then LA’s scoring started again in earnest, but at least the Blazers had confidence offensively and they managed to rack up points in return. They went big for Jerami Grant, but the power-scoring player was hit and miss. Nasser Al-Saghir followed him, only his shots were worth three instead of two. However, those brands are still counted.

While Portland’s second unit was pulling into the lead, Los Angeles was busy turning the ball around behind trying to do a lot of Russell Westbrook. The Lakers not getting shots helped Portland’s point weight.

The Lakers were nervous enough to put LeBron back in the last minute. He’s had to get another degree, just because he can. Twelve completed for LBJ to go with 10 by Bryant. Lakers lead 33-26 after one.

Second Quarter

James started the second half driving down the lane and scoring, just to underline his ability. But Portland kept playing fast and Little hit another pair of threes, completing an impressive first run off the bench.

The offense per second continued to follow the pattern. Every time the Blazers shot before the Lakers defense was set, they looked in good shape. As Los Angeles got off the ground and leveled off, Portland ended up driving in hopeless traffic or being covered by all three.

Jusuf Nurkic made the now expected third foul at the 8:47 mark. This robbed Portland of its service and left them with a huge size on the inside, but it also helped them maintain the high speed. As long as the Lakers kept taking jumpers—which they seem to do frequently, despite having great advantages in the paint—it’s been a win for Portland. They benefited too. Then, Drew Eubanks ran to the ground, caught a pass from Dam, and whipped it back to Lillard, who threw it to Simmons, who struck out three to put Portland up for first, 39-38. The Lakers responded by shooting more jumpers and misses. The Blazers had to run harder. At that point, it was the Portland game.

With the sixth minute of the period gone, Simmons hit another pair of threes—Portland’s fifth and sixth of the quarter—while Grant converted a layup and transition. The Lakers were powerless against the attack. Timeout with 4:2 remaining saw the 14th drop, 56-42.

Portland held that margin for the remainder of the season. Simmons stayed hot and the tempo kept fast. Eubanks collecting three blocks helped stop the Lakers at the edge. Best of all, the Blazers accomplished all of this without Lillard scoring big… until he hit a three-out from Halfcourt’s pennant with 33 seconds left, putting Portland up 68-46. When Simons splashed his personal fifth of the period on the final possession, Portland led 71-46. They outperformed the LA 45-13 in the frame.

Third quarter

The Lakers clearly spent the break getting their heads straight. They came out of the locker room and went inside again, not settling into the long jump. They scored four times over the edge in three minutes.

Unfortunately for them, their recording wasn’t fast enough… at least not at first. An occasional dip of three or two free throws at the Portland end was enough to keep Los Angeles at bay, or at least down by 20.

This was about to change.

The Lakers jumped below the 20-point barrier in the middle of the period when they came out running. Blazers are starting to miss. LA grabbed him and turned their throats now. In just over four minutes, between 7:53 and 4:40, Portland’s lead increased from 21 to 7.

At that point, Damian Lillard tried to take over, hitting three free throws and a couple. But LeBron took it harder with his drives, conversions, and foul shots. Three other D-Lakers were stopped by Simmons, but just barely. After most missing quarters and runs, the Blazers led 91-86 only after three. Los Angeles took them in 40-20.

The fourth quarter

Grant attempted a second unit defense as the fourth period began. Sheddon hit Sharp for an assist, then scored on two free throws. Then his co-conspirators came to the rescue. Simmons hit a draw of 13, then Eubanks stopped another shot and stood his ground in jubilation.

After that, the Lakers began pressing the Portland guards to the ground. Veterans Lillard and Gary Payton II handled it, but starting offense far outside kept Portland on the perimeter and contesting it. They missed two questionable ones. Los Angeles converted after both, second with three from Bryant. With 7:30 to go, the Lakers regained the lead, 98-97.

After that, the work became intense. Grant kicked three goals, but Dennis Schroeder stole the ball from just inside the goal and put in a short corner throw, making the score 100. Then Grant hit three. Then Schroeder hit three. The entire arena hung on each possession as if it were a game of 6 NBA Finals. Vocal Lakers fans clashed with Vocal Blazers fans to cheer each other on.

Damian Lillard had been rather cold up to this point. He tried to go forward but could only muster two free throws. Schroeder continued to strike, however, and struck out three. Simmons got a little cold, still missing his threes. Portland was fumbling and struggling a bit, but kept contact on the scoreboard. In a timeout with 3:21 remaining, the Lakers lead 110-105. They held that margin through the 2:00 mark. It’s time for Portland to step up or go home.

Drew Eubanks tried to help, blocking a shot and grabbing a crucial offensive rebound, but Thomas Bryant jammed home a denial Karm and Portland couldn’t score on the extra try. The Blazers found themselves 7 with 1:10 remaining.

At that point, Lillard was fouled again, but hit 1 of 2, leaving the Blazers down 6 with a minute left. When Troy Brown, Jr. hit three, it was over. Portland put in a great effort, but in the end just couldn’t get it done.

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Stay tuned for more analysis, soon!

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The Blazers welcome San Antonio Spurs Tomorrow evening at 7:00 pm, kick off at Moda Center.

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