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Takeaways from the Lakers’ Game 5 and series victory over the Trail Blazers

Lakers' Anthony Davis looks for a way past Portland Trail Blazers' Jaylen Hoard and Gary Trent Jr.
Lakers’ Anthony Davis looks for a way past Portland Trail Blazers’ Jaylen Hoard (6) and Gary Trent Jr. (2) during the first half on Saturday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

After all the talk about the Lakers potentially having trouble with the Portland Trail Blazers, it took only five games for them to wrap up the plucky eighth seed. Even before Damian Lillard’s second injury, which led him to leave the bubble and go home, the Lakers had clearly figured out how to make this team ineffective. It likely helped, too, that they weren’t as emotionally exhausted, in a basketball sense, as the Trail Blazers. In Game 5, Portland fought. But there were times when the Trail Blazers just couldn’t match what the Lakers had.

Here are five takeaways from the game.

1. The Lakers learned the power of their own ability. That was a lesson Anthony Davis took from the series. “When we play Lakers basketball — running in transition, playing great defense, getting stops, playing for each other, playing scrappy — I think we’re a tough team to beat,” Davis said. “The first game we didn’t lock into our defensive coverages. Especially late game. We wasn’t making shots. We wasn’t running. We wasn’t being scrappy.... That led to a loss for us and we picked it up Games 2-5 and were able to win. So we know we’re a tough team to beat. We know we’re a great team and we just got to play that way every night.”

2. One of the reasons people felt good about Portland’s chances was the advantage they had at guard. Without Avery Bradley, the question was how the Lakers would take on Lillard and CJ McCollum. The answer, it turned out, was Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Although the whole team had a hand in guarding Lillard and McCollum, Caruso and Caldwell-Pope bore the brunt of the assignment. “They were exceptional,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We don’t win this series if those two guys don’t play at the level they played at against two of the best guards in the game. And what I love about [Caruso and Caldwell-Pope] is they’re both two-way players who are they’re contributing on both ends.”

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After three days days of no basketball and emotionally charged meetings, the Lakers collected themselves and ousted the Trail Blazers with a Game 5 win.

3. Davis proved that when he is hitting his jumper, few people can stop him. In Saturday’s game he made 14 of 18 shots and four three-pointers on the way to 43 points. When the Trail Blazers clogged the middle for him, he started shooting threes.

4. LeBron James had a lot to do with Davis getting going, and in Game 5 the Lakers showed the might of their costars. James also had an incredibly efficient night shooting, making 14 of 19 and scoring 36 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists. “I did see it in the second half,” Vogel said of James getting Davis going. “I know AD had a big first quarter, didn’t really get going in the second. We wanted to get him going a little bit early in the third quarter and I thought Bron did a great job of that. But honestly, AD did a lot of that himself as well. Both of those guys rose to the challenge.”

5. As the Lakers await their next opponent, they will get a few days off, at least four, maybe more if the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday can force a Game 7 against the Houston Rockets. But one thing they’ll likely have to get comfortable with is playing against smaller lineups. The key there, according to Davis: “Being scrappy. We have a lot of talent and when we’re scrappy defensively — diving on the floor, talking, picking guys up full court — that’s who we are. And that’s how we win games. We’re not going to shoot the ball well every night. We’re still going to be able to play defense and hold teams to a certain amount of points each game and have a great defensive rating.”


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