PORTLAND — Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard handed the Los Angeles Lakers a heartbreaking defeat on Thursday night time that solely acquired extra painful with the lack of beginning energy ahead Larry Nance Jr.
Lillard buried a clutch step-back Three-pointer over Brandon Ingram with Zero.7 seconds remaining to provide Portland a 113-110 win. And, as if the Lakers’ 13th straight loss to the Blazers wasn’t dangerous sufficient, Nance Jr. suffered a damaged left thumb. He left the sport within the third quarter and X-rays revealed the fractured second metacarpal in his left hand.
The Lakers will face the Brooklyn Nets in D’Angelo Russell’s return to Staples Center on Friday with a brand new beginning energy ahead within the lineup.
This loss was a tricky one for the Lakers to swallow. They battled again from an 18-point deficit and performed nicely sufficient to win in one of many hardest buildings within the NBA.
But Lillard (32 factors, 5 badists) was an excessive amount of on the finish. Rookie Lonzo Ball had his worst offensive recreation of the season, going scoreless with simply 4 badists and three rebounds. But Brook Lopez had 27 factors, and late first-round rookie energy ahead Kyle Kuzma got here up huge off the bench with 22 factors. Kuzma missed on the buzzer on a possible game-tying Three.
The Lakers (Three-5) have had stretches this season the place they fall behind huge, and this recreation was no totally different. The Blazers blitzed the Lakers within the first quarter, constructing a 41-23 lead simply earlier than the top of the primary quarter.
Ball, who has had his greatest video games when he was aggressively pushing the tempo and in search of his shot, appeared out of types on offense within the first three quarters. He was engaged defensively, making an attempt to problem Lillard when he may. But offensively he did not look like himself.
Ball took simply two photographs within the first three quarters, one which was a poor choice after followers booed him whereas he milked the clock towards the top of the primary earlier than taking a Three-pointer that was blocked. Ball additionally did not seize a rebound till the third quarter, which is uncharacteristic since he crashes the boards typically.
But regardless of their rookie level guard struggling, the Lakers continued to do one thing they’ve performed most of this early season — they confirmed battle and mounted a comeback after falling behind huge. After trailing 43-25 with 11:43 left within the second, the Lakers outscored the Blazers 55-31 over the following 19:33, taking an 80-74 lead with four:10 left within the third quarter.
But the true purpose the Lakers acquired again into this recreation was their protection. After enjoying no protection and ending 30th within the league in protection the previous two seasons, the Lakers got here into coaching camp preaching protection and spending hours engaged on defensive particulars.
The Lakers have made strides this season, surrendering 106.6 factors per recreation (tied for 16th greatest within the league getting into the Portland recreation) and rating ninth in defensive effectivity. They contested photographs with Lopez and Nance Jr. making issues tough inside earlier than Nance Jr. left the sport for good within the third together with his damaged hand.
Ball even blocked Lillard on a drive to the basket and deflected one other cross for a turnover that led to a transition basket together with his size. Lakers like Corey Brewer and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope deflected pbades that began quick breaks, however the Lakers acquired sloppy and wasted a few of these transition alternatives.
The Blazers, who misplaced the night time earlier than in Utah in time beyond regulation, turned to Lillard. The star level guard scored 10 of his factors within the third as Portland regained the lead.
But whereas Ball struggled offensively, fellow rookie Kuzma was huge within the fourth. He scored seven factors early within the fourth because the Lakers opened a 98-93 lead. The two groups went forwards and backwards to the top. Caldwell-Pope caught an inbounds cross and buried a Three to tie the sport at 110-110 with 15.5 seconds left.
Lillard, although, calmly introduced the ball up court docket out of a timeout earlier than drilling a lightning fast stepback Three over Ingram for the win.
The Lakers acquired to see what life is like when Lopez will get going. Lopez, who shall be dealing with his outdated Nets crew for the primary time on Friday night time in Los Angeles, had his greatest stretch as a Laker when he made five-of-six photographs and scored 13 factors within the second quarter. The recreation took a retro flip the place each groups went inside to their respective seven-footers. Jusuf Nurkic scored 20 of his 28 factors within the first half as he and Lopez went forwards and backwards.