If there were any questions about the importance of Dennis Schroder to this Los Angeles Lakers team, he answered them all against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Schroder scored 22 points in his first game back from the NBA’s health and safety protocols, while LeBron James did a bit of everything with 28 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and three blocks as the Lakers ended their four-game losing streak with a 102-93 victory over Portland.
The Lakers struggled mightily without Schroder, who was looked at as the main player capable of stepping up in the absence of Anthony Davis. Schroder’s energy, aggression and defense made a difference and it rubbed off on the rest of the team.
The defense of the Lakers was much improved, particularly in the second half when they held the Trail Blazers to just 36 points. Portland star Damian Lillard finished with 35 points, but 24 came in the first half and his last couple of baskets came after the outcome was decided.
The return of Schroder also allowed the Lakers role players to slide back into more comfortable roles and it immediately paid dividends. Montrezl Harrell was his usual energetic self with 17 points and nine rebounds while Alex Caruso added 10 points, six rebounds, and two steals.
Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker only combined for eight points, but they provided a ton of energy and contributed in other areas. Kuzma finished with 11 rebounds and two assists and played a big role in helping to contain Blazers big Enes Kanter on the offensive glass after he killed the Lakers early on.
Likewise, Horton-Tucker had five rebounds, four assists and two blocks, making a major impact on both ends of the floor with what was likely his best all-around effort in the past couple of weeks.
A slow start again was an isue as the Lakers fell behind 13-2 early before climbing back in the game. Things were back and forth for most of the second and third quarters, but the Lakers began pulling away late in the third and never let Portland get close again in the final quarter.
Defense was the key for the Lakers as they held Portland to just 38.6% shooting from the field and 29.7% from 3-point range while forcing 15 turnovers. As a team the Lakers finished with nine steals and seven blocks.
Marc Gasol also added eight points and even added a dunk early in the third quarter. Most importantly the Lakers did not allow a career night for one of the Blazers’ role players. Gary Trent Jr. finished with 19 points, but no other Blazer had more than 11.
Next up for Lakers
The Lakers host the Golden State Warriors before a back-to-back against the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings takes them into the All-Star break.
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