With external distractions swirling and facing a team they had lost 16 games in a row to, the Los Angeles Lakers survived early miscues and hung on late for a 114-110 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda enter.
The Lakers started the game by making four of their first five shots but then came unglued and were out of sync, leading to five turnovers and the Trail Blazers ripping off a 17-2 run to take a 22-12 lead.
Improbable as it may seem, the Lakers turning to a reserve unit that included Ivica Zubac helped shift the tide. While the seldom-used big man provided a bit of boost, the spark was primarily lit by Rajon Rondo.
His activity and ability to keep the Blazers’ defense honest helped open up the offense for the Lakers. Although the Lakers built a lead up to nine points, they went into halftime trailing because of 10 turnovers and the Trail Blazers closing on a 14-4 run.
Rondo and the Lakers reserves keyed another run in the third quarter, as a 16-0 stretch created some separation. While Lakers head coach Luke Walton has drawn criticism for his rotations, he stuck with the group that built out a 15-point lead.
It paid off as they carried that momentum into the fourth quarter as Josh Hart’s corner three as part of a 23-4 run that put the Lakers ahead by 20. However, Walton was forced to call on his starters when Rondo picked up back-to-back fouls, giving him five with more than eight minutes remaining.
Portland’s starters began to mount a run which was aided by the Lakers spending more than the quarter out of fouls. Jusuf Nurkic making three of four free throws trimmed the Lakers’ lead to 11 points with just under five minutes remaining in the game.
Damian Lillard scored five points on consecutive drives to the basket, at which point the Lakers opted for a small lineup of Rondo, Josh Hart, Ingram, James and Kyle Kuzma. Nurkic’s layup forced Walton to call a timeout so JaVale McGee could replace Kuzma.
Although they came out of it with a poor offensive possession, Hart helped make up for it by blocking Lillard at the basket and finishing for a layup of his own on the other end. The teams traded baskets, with James delivering on multiple possessions.
But perhaps his biggest contribution was combining with McGee for back-to-back blocks on the same possession, and later finding the versatile big man for a layup that essentially iced the game with 28 seconds remaining.
However, the start of the night was Rondo as he finished with 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and 6 assists.