The Los Angeles Lakers looked to build off their best performance of the season Tuesday night when they blew out the Detroit Pistons at home.
They faced a tough task though, traveling to take on the Portland Trail Blazers where they have struggled historically. The Lakers had lost 10 straight games to Portland going into Thursday night’s game.
Luke Walton sent out his normal starting lineup of Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr. and Brook Lopez.
Starting for Portland was their all-star backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, along with Maurice Harkless, Noah Vonleh and Jusuf Nurkic.
As is usually the case when these two teams meet, the Blazers got off to a good start as they jumped out to a 14-6 lead causing Walton to burn an early timeout.
Caldwell-Pope brought some energy out of the timeout with a steal and transition layup, but overall the Lakers struggled defensively in the first quarter.
McCollum found Nurkic for an easy dunk, but rookie Kyle Kuzma responded, coming off the bench to score seven straight points.
The Blazers seemingly could not miss in the first quarter, especially from three as they made 15 of their 21 shots overall and six of their seven threes, giving them a 41-25 lead after one quarter.
The Lakers second unit found a bit of a groove offensively to start the second quarter, as Kuzma and Julius Randle were attacking the rim every time they touched the ball. Kuzma had 11 points in his first 10 minutes of action on 5-of-7 shooting.
The bench kept it within striking distance and when the starters came back in they cut the deficit to eight on a three-point play by Lopez.
Both centers, Nurkic and Lopez, dominated in the paint in the second quarter. Nurkic scored 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting and Lopez had 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Ingram drove and finished a layup to beat the buzzer, and the Lakers deficit was just four at 66-62.
The Lakers starting unit got off to a much better start to the second half on the defensive end, allowing Portland to score just two points in the first three minutes of the quarter.
Ingram knocked down a jumper to tie the game at 68, causing Portland to burn an early timeout. The Lakers didn’t stop there though as they went on a 10-0 run to take their first lead of the game and expanded it to 74-68.
McCollum broke the run with a four-point play to cut the deficit to two. The Lakers responded immediately though as Lopez found Nance for a dunk.
Walton stuck with his starters longer than normal in the third quarter, and they held onto the lead for most of the quarter but the Blazers went on a run at the end of the quarter and ended with a 87-85 lead.
Los Angeles regained momentum in the fourth quarter though, as a three by Kuzma gave them a three-point early. The second unit continued to play with high energy, particularly Josh Hart and Corey Brewer on the defensive end.
The lead was built up to five, but Walton called a timeout with seven minutes left as his team’s play got a bit sloppy.
Nurkic continued to be a problem out of the timeout, scoring four straight points to bring his team within one. McCollum then drilled a three to help Portland regain the lead causing another Laker timeout.
After the Lakers tied the game, Lopez hit a three of his own to give his team the lead once again at 103-100 with just over three minutes left.
With a minute left and the Lakers trailing by one, Kuzma and Lillard exchanged layups so the Lakers deficit remaining one. Caldwell-Pope couldn’t convert on a jumper. On the next possession, Lopez fouled Nurkic, and he knocked down both free throws so the deficit was three with 18 seconds left.
Out of a timeout, they drew up a play for Caldwell-Pope and he drilled a three coming off the screen to tie the game with 15 seconds left. Lillard milked the clock all the way down, and then drilled a three with 0.7 seconds left for the 113-110 win.