Lakers News: LeBron James Not Willing To Criticize Russell Westbrook For Poor Shot Selection In Loss To Trail Blazers
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers suffered the type of loss that could prove costly later in the season, falling 106-104 to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

The Lakers led 98-90 with 4:42 left on the clock, seemingly cruising toward their first win of the season. The Purple and Gold’s defense once again stepped up, securing the late eight-point lead despite the persisting shooting woes that saw them make just 20.7% of their 3-point attempts up until that point.

But the Trail Blazers clawed back the victory, closing out on a 16-6 run. Damian Lillard orchestrated the comeback, scoring 10 points of his 41 points during that stretch.

Portland’s run also coincided with Russell Westbrook checking back into the game, which further jammed L.A.’s offense. Westbrook put on another dreadful shooting performance — going 4-for-15 on the night — which encouraged the Blazers to send Jusuf Nurkic to guard him, intentionally leaving him wide open on the perimeter.

LeBron James acknowledged the impact of Portland’s defensive tweaks down the stretch but said it wasn’t the only factor that decided the outcome of the game.

“I feel like we were getting some of the same shots that we were getting, obviously just didn’t make them,” James said. “Russ, when he comes back in at that moment, they were able to switch their defense a little bit by putting the 5 on him. But he got some good looks, wasn’t able to knock them down.

“Defensively, we weren’t able to get multiple stops in a row. We were able to get a couple but we couldn’t get multiple stops in a row. Dame was Dame down the stretch and they got a good win.”

Westbrook left his teammates perplexed by deciding to fire a 15-foot pull-up jumper only six seconds into one of the matchup’s last possessions — with the Lakers leading by one point and just 30 seconds left in the game. The 33-year-old guard missed and soon after, Lillard regained the lead for the Trail Blazers by knocking down a triple.

Asked about L.A.’s shot selection late in the fourth quarter, James said the Purple and Gold should always try to make the right play, regardless of what time the clock shows.

“Shot selection is always a part of the game no matter if it’s the last couple minutes of the game or the first two minutes of the game,” the Lakers All-Star said. “You want to play the right way. Always, no matter what the time and the score is. You should always be understanding of what’s the best shot you can get every possession.”

After the game, Westbrook explained he made the questionable crunch-time play to put the Lakers in a two-for-one situation. The decision backfired as Portland ended up with two possessions in the last seconds of the game, not one, scoring on both plays to get the win.

James refused to comment on his teammate’s reasoning behind the play.

“I feel like this is an interview trying to set me up to say something,” he said. “I can tell that you guys are in the whole Russell Westbrook category right now.

“I don’t like to lose, I hate to lose at anything. I don’t care what happens throughout the course of my season or my career. I hate to lose, especially the way we had this game. But give credit to Portland. You guys can write about Russ and all the things you want to try to talk about Russ. But I’m not up here to do that. I won’t do it, I’ve said it over and over, that it’s not who I am.”

Westbrook ’not really sure’ why he’s guarded by centers

Westbrook found himself guarded by the opposing big man in the second game in a row. The L.A. Clippers used the same tactic late in Thursday’s win over the Lakers, assigning Ivica Zubac to cover him as the guard was on course to finish the night 0-for-11 from the field.

“Not really sure what to do but just trying to do the best I can,” Westbrook said of being guarded by the opponents’ big men.

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