August 2, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Little comes easily for Lakers as they lose to Trail Blazers

LeBron James doubled CJ McCollum and poked the ball loose, no one between him and the basket in front of the Portland bench.

James gathered his footing and slowed down as if he were waiting for the photographers on the baseline to get everything focused. And then like a Tesla, James zipped into top speed, uncorking a ferocious one-handed slam.

That was easy. Everything else Monday night against the Trail Blazers was not.

Portland outscrapped, outshot and, eventually, outlasted the Lakers, beating them 115-107 as the Lakers’ four-game, season-opening homestand became bookended with losses.

Anthony Davis, returning after a one-game absence because of a calf injury, floated his way through the first half and couldn’t put any real impact on the game. Marc Gasol, whose passing cut apart Minnesota’s defense the previous night, couldn’t deal out a single assist.

And the Lakers’ bench, which had played so well in their last two games, got overwhelmed by Portland backups Gary Trent Jr. and Enes Kanter.

Davis scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, but it was all a struggle. Being guarded by the much smaller Robert Covington, Davis only started to become a factor in the second half.

Kyle Kuzma followed up a great game Sunday by hitting two of nine field-goal tries Monday (including two for eight from deep), and Montrezl Harrell scored nine points in 27 fairly quiet minutes.

The Portland bench, though, scored 45 points (nearly twice as many as the Lakers’ 23), turning the game early and helping set the stage for Damian Lillard (31 points) and McCollum (20 points) late. The Trail Blazers’ Gary Trent Jr. scored 28 points, hitting seven threes, in a reserve role.

Early Monday night, it was kind of like that breakaway, the Lakers setting the terms, doing what they wanted — fast, slow or whatever. But the team’s 13-point lead quickly disappeared, Portland pressuring every non-traditional ballhandler as soon they crossed midcourt.

The game quickly devolved, the Lakers playing their first back-to-back of the new season, missing postups off the side of the backboard and throwing the ball through people’s hands and out of bounds.

The frustration was hard to mask, Davis with his shoulders slumped and head down and coach Frank Vogel getting called for a technical foul in the fourth quarter, with Portland tying the score on the subsequent free throw.

James finished with 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Dennis Schroder added 24 points.