When less than five minutes remained in the third quarter Sunday night, the Portland Trail Blazers began to drown the Lakers in three-pointers.
Suddenly an eight-point lead became 21 points, and the Lakers never recovered. Portland beat them, 97-81, at Staples Center to sweep the four-game season series.
Damian Lillard had 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Trail Blazers, and forward Noah Vonleh scored eight with a game-high 14 rebounds. D'Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 22 points and had two assists. Reserve point guard Tyler Ennis added 14 points, nine in the fourth quarter.
"When you're committed to defense, you always give yourself a chance to win games," Lakers Coach Luke Walton said. "Unfortunately that didn't carry over into the third quarter. . . . Every time we messed up a coverage, or we misread a situation, Portland, they got a lot of weapons on that team offensively. They made us pay for it."
It was the first game this season in which the Lakers did not have Brandon Ingram. The rookie forward sat out because of patellar tendinitis in his right knee that had been bothering him since Thursday's practice. He wanted to play, but Walton saw no benefit to pushing him now.
Walton debated between starting David Nwaba and Corey Brewer, ultimately choosing Brewer.
"With Portland being a team that runs a different offense than a lot of these teams out here in the NBA and having some dynamic players, we just felt like Corey's experience and his understanding of the game would help at least to start the game off until we got in the groove," Walton said.
The Lakers were competitive early in the game because of their defense. They were shooting poorly, but so was Portland. In the first quarter the Trail Blazers made 30.8% of their shots, while the Lakers made 31.8%. Both teams improved slightly in the second quarter — 33.3% for the Lakers, 35% for Portland.
"We just didn't make the shots," Lakers center Ivica Zubac said. "We had some good looks. We executed good. But we just couldn't make the shots."
At halftime Portland led, 40-32. Allen Crabbe came off the bench to score 10 points for the Trail Blazers, leading all scorers in the first half.
"When you're not making shots on an NBA team, I think it's pretty normal for at least one guy to come up big for you," Lillard said. "I think tonight that was AC being able to make shots. He's done a great job of that all year, being our savior at times when we weren't shooting the ball well, not executing well."
Perhaps discouraged by their shooting, the Lakers defense began to fade in the third quarter, and Portland left behind its shooting woes. The Trail Blazers shot 60% in the third, making six of eight three-point attempts. Four of those three-pointers came during a 16-3 run that buried the Lakers.
"They went on a run in the third I think we just couldn't come back from it," Ennis said.
With the loss the Lakers fell to 21-52. The Trail Blazers improved to 35-38, tying the Denver Nuggets for eighth place in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Los Angeles Lakers trailed by eight points in the third quarter when the Portland Trail Blazers used multiple three-pointers to blow the game open en route to a 97-81 victory on Sunday.