I won’t start this postgame piece bitching about the immense amount of Lakers apparel streaking around the Moda Center last night. It’s a moot point anymore since there’s presumed to be a large amount of California expats residing in the Portland metro area. We can all expect to see a lot of the away team’s colors from now on when they come to town from Cali - aside from the Clippers, of course…
What is slightly surprising is that the majority of the Lakers fans were sporting Lebron James jerseys and t-shirts. How soon everyone put away their Kobe swag! For someone who was supposed to be a hero and lift the Lakers franchise up, their under .500 start to this season has been less than up-lifting. There are those that argue for James as being the greatest of all time, so maybe some of them are loyal to the GOAT instead of a team? After walking through the concourse back to my seat and hearing a gentleman wearing a James jersey exclaim, “I don’t follow teams, I follow players,” I received the answer to that question. James could eventually wrangle his young team of brawlers into a winning squad, but it certainly looks like he’s got his work cut out for him.
Last night the Trail Blazers stepped up to the Lakers for the second time in this young season. Not to be too over confident, but the Blazers had a good chance of handling them again like they did in the season opener. Plus, the Blazers likely still had balls of ice running through their veins after their win against the Pelicans on Thursday. Conquering their demons from last year’s first round playoff debacle, and considering the fact that the Lakers haven’t beat the Blazers since 2014, the home team had a good chance of keeping the streak alive.
Alas, the Blazers couldn’t muster enough juice to take care of Lebron and his minions this time. After a contentious game, The Lakers held fast and left town with the win, 114-110.
Halfway through the first it didn't look like the Lakers even wanted to win the game. They had five turnovers in the first eight minutes—literally a third of the balls they threw away in their first match-up with the Blazers.
Meanwhile on the Blazers offensive end, CJ McCollum was looking like he might finally have a game. McCollum has been a little quiet so far this season. Last night would’ve been a good opportunity for him to open up a little bit. He rained in a pair of threes and took it to the hoop for a total of eight points before he sat with a few minutes left in the first.
Despite Al-Farouq Aminu’s defense doing a killer job of shutting James down, the Lakers established a little more control in the second. A clean alley-oop pass from Rajon Rondo to JaVale McGee helped them build their lead up to five. There was plenty of game left, but the Blazers were starting to look shaky on both ends. The Lakers lead ticked up to as much as nine before the Blazers picked away at it until they took the lead back by one before halftime. The battle was real.
The third quarter looked much like the second. The Blazers struggled to get stops, and shot under 40 percent from the field. There was really nothing too fancy from the Lakers. They just made more shots than the Blazers. Panic was setting in. The Lakers lead was 15 going into the final 12 minutes.
Down and down the Blazers went to start the fourth. In the blink of an eye the Lakers went up 20 with James sitting on the bench. The Blazers needed to kick it into high gear real fast. Understanding the direness of the situation, the Blazers intensity grew slightly, and the Lakers put themselves in the penalty with five minutes left to play. But the Blazers didn’t need to go to the line to bring it closer. Damian Lillard started rolling into the paint like an armored tank and twisted his body under the hoop for some aerobatic lay-ups. The fans were heating up and the Blazers were feeding off of it. The whole place roared and the crowd was on their feet.
Then, almost without warning, the heat got to be too much on the court. After a sloppily called play on the Blazers’ offensive end that could’ve/should’ve ended in a goaltending by the Lakers or a foul on James, the ball was dead with Josh Hart holding it when Jusuf Nurkić got in his face and slapped it out of his hands. After a few replays it looked like Hart threw a slight elbow in Nurk’s direction. Needless to say, he was not happy about it. Seeing as how the Lakers had already been in a tussle this year with the Rockets, there was no way any of them were gonna throw the first punch. Tempers were cooled quickly by fellow players and coaches, and the refs retired to the replay screen to try and make sense of what happened. They returned with offset technical fouls for Nurk and Hart and a loose ball foul for McGee.
Sadly, all the bluster wasn’t enough to get the Blazers close enough to nab the win. All and all, it was a well fought game on both sides, but in the end the Lakers just scored more points…