The Portland Trail Blazers, who have not lost to the Los Angeles Lakers since March 2014, completed another season-sweep of the purple and gold Sunday night, winning the contest 97-81.
Coming off a surprise win in their last game, the Lakers reverted to form with a listless performance in which they showed no fight and were out-hustled every step of the way, even though it was the Trail Blazers who were playing the second night of back to back games.
Any thought that the Lakers might make it two wins in a row was quickly dispelled when they scored only 17 points in the first quarter and a season-low 32 points in the first half. Portland was also cold and led by only eight points at the break, but in their case, you just knew the poor shooting would not continue.
Sure enough, Damian Lillard was on fire to start the second half, scoring 14 third quarter points, and the deficit swelled to 21 to start the final period. After the excitement of the last game, it was disappointing that the Lakers rolled over and played dead.
Here are three takeaways from the latest embarrassing loss.
1. The Final Statistics Reflected the Lakers’ Total Lack of Effort
If ever there was a game where the final statistics reflected a total lack of effort on the Lakers’ part, this was it.
Not only did they score an anemic 32 points in the first half, and 81 points for the game, but they connected on only 33-84 shots from the field (39%) and 5-21 from three point range (24%). They were out-rebounded by an astounding 61-42 margin, lost the battle of the assists 24-19, and made only 10-17 free throws.
The rebound differential, in particular, was a key, as the Trail Blazers consistently got second and third chances to score. The Lakers had only one offensive rebound the entire game, by Tarik Black.
D’Angelo Russell scored a quiet 22 points on 8-19 from the field, including two air-balls, and he had only one rebound and two assists. Julius Randle, continuing his season-long pattern of up and down performances, had only four points on 2-7 from the field and was noticeably loafing on defense at times.
Ivica Zubac finished with 10 points on 4-9 from the floor, and he had seven rebounds, but he continues to struggle mightily on the defensive end.
Putting aside individual performances, the Lakers, and especially the first unit, did not play together as a team. There was little ball movement and too many forced shots.
2. Brandon Ingram Missed His First Game of the Season
The Lakers struggled with injuries earlier in the season, so much so that until the game Sunday night, only two players had appeared in every game. That number is now one, as the team was without Brandon Ingram for this contest. Ingram has been struggling with tendonitis in his knee, and the coaching staff decided to hold him out of the game as a precaution.
Aside from Dario Saric of the Philadelphia 76ers, an argument could be made that Ingram has been the NBA’s best rookie in the month of March. After struggling to score all season, his confidence has grown and he has shot better than 50% from the floor this month.
Hopefully Ingram will return for the next game, as he needs as much experience as he can get the remainder of this year and wants to continue his improved play going into the offseason.
3. While the Starters Did Little, There Were Nice Contributions from the Bench
The Lakers struggled to score all night. Jordan Clarkson, after finishing with a career high 35 points in the last game, had only 10 in this contest on a poor 4-16 shooting from the field. He did finish with 7
rebounds and 6 assists, but his plight underscored the fact that the Lakers struggled to score all game, and especially in the first half.
On the other hand, there were good contributions off the bench. Tyler Ennis played his best game as a Laker, with 14 points on 6-15 shooting to go along with 5 assists, 4 steals, and 3 rebounds. David Nwaba was his usual solid self, finishing with 9 points on 4-4 shooting and playing tough defense.
Larry Nance, Jr. was again the team’s best defender and had 9 points on 4-7 shooting, along with 7 rebounds. He struggled from the free throw line, however, making only 1-5 tries, which is unacceptable.