Kent Bazemore found Wesley Johnson at the rim with an inbounds pass for a layup with six seconds to play to give the Lakers a 107-106 victory against the Trail Blazers Monday at the Moda Center.
“It’s a disappointing loss. I thought the Lakers played really well,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “They kept the pressure on us the whole game. They came out with more energy to start with and they sustained it throughout the whole game. In the second half, we did a good job defensively but couldn’t quite get over the hump. We just weren’t good enough tonight.”
The loss broke a five-game winning streak for the Trail Blazers while evening the season series between the two teams at 1-1. The series wraps up on April 1 in Los Angeles.
The Trail Blazers now sit at 41-19 on the season, good enough for third in the Western Conference, and are 23-8 on their home court.
The Trail Blazers turned in one of their worst first quarters in recent memory despite shooting 47 percent from the field. After having played some of their best defense of the season in their last five games, the Trail Blazers looked outmatched against the Lakers’ fast-paced offense. Both Johnson and Pau Gasol would go four of seven from the field for eight points in the first quarter and Jodie Meeks and Kent Bazemore scored six apiece while the Blazers offered only token resistance.
The Trail Blazers might have been able to overcome a poor defensive performance, but eight first-quarter turnovers and being beaten 17-10 on the glass ensured they’d enter the second quarter down big. Turns out, they’d trail 33-20 after 12 minutes.
“They were making shots,” said Wesley Matthews. “They were making their jumpers. I think we were deflated all the way around. Their energy was a little bit higher than ours. We were missing free throws, which is uncharacteristic of us. As of late, we haven’t been giving up any transition points and we gave up 13 or something like that in the first quarter, so we were a little off of who we normally are.”
The good thing about Portland getting off to such a poor start is they had nowhere to go but up in the second quarter. While the defense wasn’t much improved — the Lakers shot 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from three in the second — Portland turned the ball over just once allowed just one offensive rebound after giving up eight in the first quarter.
Add in both LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez scoring nine points apiece and Portland as a whole shooting 54 percent from the field, and the Trail Blazers were able to cut the Lakers lead to 63-56 by the halftime intermission.
Portland shot under 40 percent in the third, but managed to chip away at the L.A.’s lead thanks to 10 turnovers by the visiting team, a 7-1 advantage on the offensive boards and Damian Lillard scoring nine of his 20 points in the quarter. Dorell Wright added eight points in the quarter to help Portland cut the lead to three going into the fourth.
The Lakers would start the fourth on a 7-2 run to take an 11-point lead with 7:33 to play in regulation. And while it wouldn’t be pretty, Portland would respond with a 19-8 run in the next six minutes to tie the game at 105-105 after a 13-foot jumper by Wesley Matthews with 1:09 to play.
Lillard would earn a trip to the foul line on Portland’s next possession,. He’s make the first to give the Trail Blazers their first lead since the first quarter, but missed the second, though he corralled his own rebound with 33 second to play. Wesley Matthews, who shot three of 12 on the night, missed a three-pointer on the ensuing play, with the Lakers controlling the rebound that set up their game-winning play.
The Trail Blazers would have a chance to tie or win the game with six second to play, but Lillard wasn’t able to free himself for an open look, and was forced to put up a contest three-pointer which missed the mark as time expired.
“They started in fifth gear and we kind of started in third gear,” said Stotts. “Eventually we caught up, but you know, we made a great comeback, take the lead – that’s what you want. You want to be in a position to win the game. If you look at the whole game, the fact that we were ahead with under a minute… we were in a good position to win the game, but we didn’t quite have enough.”
Nicolas Batum came one rebound short of tying his career-high in rebounds, which he set the game before against the Nuggets, with 15 to go along with 17 points, five assists, two steals and a block.
Lopez finished with another double of 19 points and 16 rebounds in 34 minutes. Lopez was the only Trail Blazer who seemed to play with any urgency in the first half and had numerous highlight-quality dunks.
Aldridge, in his second game back since missing five games with a left groin strain, finished with 21 points, six rebounds, two steals and an assist.
Gasol lead the Lakers with 22 points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes. Meeks scored 21 points on 16 shots and both Johnson and Bazemore finished with 14.
Next up, the Trail Blazes conclude a four-game homestand versus the Hawks on Wednesday in a nationally-televised game on ESPN. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM.