With their star back in the lineup, the Portland Trail Blazers did what many teams before them have done.
They looked at a double-digit Lakers lead squarely and dismantled it.
Portland beat the Lakers, 118-109, shooting 53.1% and outscoring the Lakers, 24-9, on fastbreak points. The Lakers had a 14-point lead in the second quarter, revisiting a recurring theme by losing that lead completely by the end of the third quarter.
Added Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell: “When games get close, we kind of get flat-footed. We kind of relax. Teams with experience, they know that’s when you get on your toes and lock in.”
Back from an ankle injury that kept him out five games, Portland point guard Damian Lillard wasn’t quite at his best. But he gave Portland a boost that helped lift them over the Lakers.
Lillard finished with 21 points, including a critical fourth-quarter three-pointer that started the final Portland run to take the game. Lillard also had 10 assists and five rebounds. Portland forward C.J. McCollum led all scorers with 27 points. Russell led the Lakers with 22 points on six-of-18 shooting. He had two assists and four rebounds. Lakers forward Julius Randle scored 17 points with nine rebounds and five assists.
The Lakers fell to 13-26 and have lost 16 of their last 19 games, with only three wins since the start of December. Portland is 16-22.
Russell gave the Lakers a four-point lead with 5 minutes 39 seconds left in the game, but Portland ripped off a 13-1 run that began with Lillard’s three-pointer.
“I think it started on defense,” Walton said. “There were two plays on defense, one we had a great possession and forced an airball. Sometimes those are hard to rebound but then we left Lillard. Lillard got a wide-open three and the next time C.J. got a wide-open three. We had the momentum up to that point. It was a good feeling, but you could feel after those two plays, momentum shifted.”
The Lakers’ offense worked in the first half, especially in the second quarter, with Jordan Clarkson productive despite an elbow injury and a cold. He made five of eight first-half shots and had three three-pointers.
The Lakers opened the second quarter on a 13-0 run, propelled in part by guard Clarkson. He scored 13 of the Lakers’ 38 second-quarter points. They entered halftime with a nine-point lead.
But even before that, the lead began to evaporate. What was a 14-point advantage with 1:22 left in the second quarter fell to nine by halftime off a three-pointer by Lillard and a dunk by forward Al-Farouq Aminu.
The third quarter saw that lead die altogether, a situation familiar to the Lakers, who were one of the league’s worst third-quarter teams in December. After Portland cut the lead to five, Walton subbed out every starter except Brandon Ingram, who was in for injured Lakers forward Luol Deng.
“Honestly, I didn’t feel like we had our legs,” Walton said. “Not sure why. It felt like we came out the first couple plays we ran, we weren’t cutting hard, we weren’t pushing the ball up in the spots we wanted the ball in.”
The game was tied at 84 by the end of the third quarter, then Portland took over.
“They fought,” Lakers guard Nick Young said. “It was one of those nights. We fought to the end. Some key plays that kind of went their way. That’s where things went south.”