Just before the start of the Lakers’ 105-98 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Moda Center video board celebrated Portland’s only championship team. The Trail Blazers won the NBA title in 1977 after sweeping the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, a bit of trivia quite applicable to Wednesday’s game.
Since the Trail Blazers won their only championship, the Lakers have won 10. But Wednesday’s game served as another reminder, though not as stark as some others lately, that championship basketball is the Lakers’ past, and maybe their future, but it is not their present.
The Trail Blazers extended a double-digit streak against the Lakers — Portland has beaten them 11 consecutive times.
The loss dropped the Lakers to 16-33 while the Trail Blazers improved to 20-27.
Lakers backup guard Lou Williams led the all scorers with 31 points, but Portland’s C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard each scored 24 points, while Mason Plumlee added 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Two Lakers starters didn’t score — Timofey Mozgov, who played 13 minutes 30 seconds, and Jose Calderon, who played 15 minutes 12 seconds in place of the injured D’Angelo Russell. Only one starter reached double figures — Nick Young scored 15 points, making five of 10 shots.
“If you’re gonna lose, this is the way,” Calderdon said. “We fought together for a long period of time. … I think we competed.”
On Sunday, the Lakers lost by 49 points to the lowly Dallas Mavericks. They spent the next three days working to forget about the worst loss the franchise had ever suffered, and expecting better the next time.
Wednesday’s game wasn’t quite so bleak.
The Lakers trailed by just one heading into halftime before ceding ground during some traditional third-quarter struggles. Portland opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run.
“The third-quarter start — it baffles me that it’s still happening,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said. “Because we fixed it for a while. We really did. And the energy we started the third quarter with, I know it was a long halftime and whatever, but we had time to get warm. It’s one thing if we’re missing shots or whatever. That’s fine. we live with that. But the energy’s not there. You see what we play like and how fun it is when we have that energy, which the second unit brought.”
That the Lakers didn’t concede the game on that third-quarter run showed progress.
“We kept fighting, got down 13, 12, we kept fighting,” Young said. “After losing by almost 50 we’re going to lay our heads down and just continue to keep going out there, trying and trying hard.”
That wasn’t the end of their fight. With the starters struggling, the second unit helped boost them. Williams scored 11 fourth-quarter points.
“We’ve had a problem really of getting down and then kind of giving up, not really sticking together to try to get back,” Walton said. “I thought tonight we did a really good job for the most part of making that extra pass and trusting our teammate.”
The Lakers even had a fourth-quarter lead before McCollum made a three-pointer with 3:14 remaining in the game to give the Trail Blazers a three-point lead. In all, he put together an individual 5-0 run to give the Trail Blazers a 101-96 lead that ultimately sank the Lakers.
“We had a great opportunity tonight,” Walton said. “We had momentum. They did a good job of keeping their composure and making plays down the stretch. It ultimately wasn’t our night.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli