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LeBron James’ triple-double wasn’t enough. Five takeaways from Lakers’ loss to Portland

Lakers forward LeBron James reacts after committing a foul during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

For an eighth seed to beat the top seed in their conference in a seven-game series is exceedingly rare, but it is also uncommon for that eighth seed to take the first game of a first-round playoff series. There are typically emotions that come with that game — a top seed who’s worked hard to have home court advantage at least until the NBA Finals finally getting to celebrate the accomplishment.

In a typical year, the start of the playoffs might have been a moment for both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Lakers to celebrate that accomplishment with an opening ceremony of sorts.

But the Orlando Magic and Portland Trail Blazers played spoilers Tuesday.

The Lakers showed up for the opening of the NBA playoffs looking frighteningly like the team that slogged its way through the eight previous meaningless seeding games, columnist Bill Plaschke writes.

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Portland’s accomplishment is perhaps less surprising than Orlando’s, given the Blazers’ talent. Orlando might have had the benefit of comfort to some degree — they are the only team still in their home market.

Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 100-93 loss to Portland:

1. LeBron James had the kind of night he should have been able to celebrate. He was magnificent for most of the game, scoring 23 points with 17 rebounds and 16 assists. It could have been more.

“He would’ve had over 20 assists if we knocked down threes at the rate that we’re capable of and at the rate we will,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Yeah, it’s certainly disappointing to lose this game — and always. Obviously with the performance he had, he was spectacular. Disappointed to lose this game.”

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James insisted he had no frustration. “Because the game is the game,” he said.

2. There were a couple of moments in the game when the momentum seemed as if it would perhaps shift. James had three assists in a row — setting up a three to Danny Green, a three to Markieff Morris, and a dunk to Dwight Howard. That 8-0 run cut the Trail Blazers’ lead to 40-38 and was part of a second quarter with which the Lakers were generally pleased. But the Lakers could never quite turn the corner to fully change the momentum of the game.

3. Late in the fourth quarter with the Lakers down 89-87, Davis and James went to the free throw line on back-to-back possessions. The two Lakers’ stars missed all four attempts, costing the team a chance to take a late lead.

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“We missed a ton of free throws tonight,” Davis said.

He’s right. The Lakers only made 20 of 31 free throw attempts and Davis, normally an 80% free throw shooter, missed five of his 17 attempts.

The Lakers’ shooting troubles continue to dog them as they make only 35.1% of their attempts in Game 1 of the first round of the NBA playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers.

4. Despite its late miscues, the Lakers defense was a bright spot for much of the game. The 100 points the Trail Blazers scored were the fewest since coming to Orlando. With a defensive performance such as that, the Lakers should have been able to take advantage of Portland’s often suspect defense, but couldn’t because of their shooting woes.

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5. The lack of a crowd seems to be affecting the Lakers. Anthony Davis said the game felt the same as all their other games, and that the bench tried to act like their crowd. James shrugged when asked if he felt the drama of the playoffs and said: “We in the bubble with no fans.” He did add that it didn’t change his preparation, and his performance might have been a nod to that.


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