After Thursday’s shoot-around, Lakers Coach Luke Walton was asked if he had any fond memories of playing in Portland. Walton struggled to find some, mostly because he remembered that the Lakers most often lost to the Trail Blazers in Portland.
That’s been the case lately too. With Thursday’s 118-109 win, the Trail Blazers have now won nine consecutive games against the Lakers, a Portland franchise record. Their nine-point win snapped a streak of six straight games of double-digit wins.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers loss.
1. Third quarters are still a big problem for the Lakers, but it doesn’t start there. Often the Lakers build big leads in the second quarter, then start to lose momentum before halftime. That happened on Thursday night as a 14-point lead was cut to five in the final minute-and-a-half of the second quarter.
2. The Lakers haven’t relied on their second unit quite as much as they used to early in the season, but they got something from it on Thursday, particularly from Jordan Clarkson, who had 21 points.
3. Unusually, Walton used a more whittled down rotation than he often does. Brandon Ingram, who started in place of Luol Deng, served as a de facto second unit member. When Walton did what he called a mass substitution, he took out every starter except Ingram. Only four players came off the bench — Lou Williams, Tarik Black, Clarkson and Thomas Robinson.
4. A bug seems to be going around the locker room a bit – at least with two of the Lakers young guards. Both D’Angelo Russell and Clarkson were battling colds on Thursday. It was also very very cold in Portland. The high was a full 10 degrees colder than the average high for Portland on Jan. 5. Thus, Walton said he did not leave the hotel for anywhere but the arena.
5. Russell said he felt like the Lakers collectively get “flat-footed” when they build big leads. I asked how to fix that. “Time,” he said. “I feel like time. Just really time. I notice it but it’s not just me. I feel like everybody that does it has to realize it.”