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Defensive effort helps Lakers take control of series against Trail Blazers

Lakers forward Anthony Davis forces Trail Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. into a difficult shot during Game 3 on Saturday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Defense is “all about effort,” Lakers stalwart Anthony Davis said.

The emphasis from the beginning of training camp has been to be “the best defensive team” in the NBA, LeBron James reminded the media late Saturday night.

The Lakers stars knew that would be put to the test in the first-round playoff series against the potent Portland Trail Blazers and their lethal backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

In Game 3, the Lakers put forth the required effort to tame Lillard and McCollum for them to pull out a 116-108 win that gave Los Angeles a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference best-of-seven series that was played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla.

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“Defense is all about effort,” Davis said during his video conference call with reporters after he had 23 of his 29 points in the second half and had collected 11 rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots. “You got to want to play defense and everybody in our locker room has taken that challenge, especially with these two guys. We want to be a great defensive team. We don’t want to rely on our offense to win games. We want to do it on the defensive end. That’s kind of what happened in that second half.”

Lillard and McCollum had caused the Lakers’ defense problems in the first half, combing for 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting, making eight of 15 from three-point range.

But the Lakers picked up their intensity in the second half, holding the dynamic duo to a combined 23 points in the second half on six-for-20 shooting, including one of eight from long range.

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The fourth quarter was when the Lakers really put the clamps on Lillard and McCollum.

Lillard missed five of his six shots and all four of his three-pointers in scoring just seven points in the final quarter. He finished with 34 points on eight-for-20 shooting. McCollum was three-for-seven shooting in the fourth and missed his only three-pointer. He finished the game with 28 points on 12-for-25 shooting.

“We let them get too comfortable in the first half, especially Dame and CJ,” Davis said. “I think Melo [Carmelo Anthony] came out in that third and got pretty hot. But we just wanted to make it tough for them. No threes, knowing that late in games that’s what they try to do. … We just tried to take that away and make them beat us with twos. So, our guards have been great on the ball guarding Dame and CJ, making sure that they feel pressure any time they come off screens or isolations and channeling them to the basket, and it’s our job as bigs to make sure that we protect it.”

The Trail Blazers entered the playoffs as the highest scoring team in the eight seeding games, averaging 126 points.

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But in the first three postseason games, the Lakers have held the Trail Blazers to 98.6 points per game.

“From the first day of training camp, we wanted to be the best defensive team in the league,” James said during his media session. “So, nothing has changed. The mind set has not changed.”

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