After a rough stretch, the Los Angeles Lakers were finally able to right the ship as they came away with a 128-120 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
It was high-scoring affair as both teams seemingly had no issues getting the looks they wanted, but the Lakers had the clear advantage near the rim as they scored 60 points in the paint compared to only 40 for the Trail Blazers. Los Angeles also did a better job of holding onto the ball this time around, only committing 11 turnovers on the night.
“Guys came in, played well. Big shots, Kuz, KCP, AB, Dwight, Do, they all played extremely well. Played with a lot of pace — some great pace — that second quarter, end of the first. Kind of got us going. Kuz been playing out of his mind since he’s been back and we’re looking for him. So anytime our bench can come in and give us a game like that, 72 points off the bench, we’re probably going to win most of those games.”
Kyle Kuzma led the way for the bench as he dropped 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting with 20 of them coming in the first half alone. Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Dwight Howard also scored in double digits as they had 15, 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Los Angeles has largely struggled to score the basketball when James is off the floor, so to see the bench be able to keep the offense afloat without him is encouraging to see. As Davis mentioned, the bench unit did a good job of playing more uptempo and generating good looks throughout the game.
The bench’s scoring explosion, however, masked how poorly the starting five aside from James and Anthony Davis played. JaVale McGee, Danny Green, and Avery Bradley combined for only 15 points, which was particularly disappointing given that Portland is a mediocre team defensively.
Regardless, the purple and gold will happily take the win given their recent struggles but clearly have issues to resolve ahead a tough matchup against the Dallas Mavericks at home. Luka Doncic absolutely carved up the Lakers defense the last time these two teams met and slowing him down will be the key if they hope to go into the new year on a high note.