LeBron James scores 30, but Lakers look careless in loss to Trail Blazers

Lakers forward LeBron James shoots as Portland Trail Blazers guard Ben McLemore defends.
Lakers forward LeBron James shoots as Portland Trail Blazers guard Ben McLemore defends during the first half Wednesday in Portland, Ore.
(Steve Dipaola / Associated Press)

The Lakers left Los Angeles late Tuesday night exposed and wounded.

Facing the Milwaukee Bucks, the team never looked like a serious threat, a brutal reminder of how far away the Lakers are from any championship aspirations.

Afterward, Russell Westbrook complained about getting benched, LeBron James fumed about unrealistic expectations and Anthony Davis warned about a scary future.


“We got to buy in. We just got to, everyone go out there and play for each other. Play hard. Play selfless,” Davis said Tuesday. “And try to turn this around before it gets really bad.”

But if a loss against the Bucks showed how far away the Lakers are from the top, what they did on the court Wednesday showed just how close they are to the bottom.

Playing against a severely short-handed Trail Blazers team in the middle of rebuilding its roster, the Lakers gave away possessions, allowed easy baskets and they left Portland somehow in more of a shambles than when they arrived, a 107-105 loss adding even more questions ahead of the NBA trade deadline.

“Obviously,” James said, “it’s a tough loss.”

Playing without Westbrook for the first time this season because of lower back tightness, the Lakers still turned the ball over 21 times, almost comically destructive mistakes that fueled 60 second-half points from a Portland team fresh off trading CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and Robert Covington — with Damian Lillard injured.

“Every time we turned the ball over, the majority of them were me, were basically pick-sixes,” James said.

The Lakers’ season-long woes continued Tuesday in a loss to Milwaukee, with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook a struggling star trio.

Instead, as coach Frank Vogel said postgame, the two players who they keyed on, Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic, showed just how flawed and how deep the Lakers’ issues run. Simmons scored 25 of his 29 points in the second half, predictably heating up after Portland made only one of 11 three-pointers. And Nurkic had 19 points and 12 rebounds, getting around Davis for easy baskets and rebounds.

“Disappointed. Angry,” Vogel said flatly. “That’s a game we have to get.”

And in not getting it, the Lakers enter the NBA’s final hours before Thursday’s noon trade deadline with a massive pile of problems.

At the foreground is still Westbrook, a player that locker room sources say isn’t working as he has tried to find a rhythm with James and Davis. An awkward exchange at the end of Tuesday’s game, Westbrook said, was him apologizing for not being on the court to help — a thinly veiled shot at Vogel’s decisions to bench him late in games.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis and Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic battle for a rebound.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis and Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic battle for a rebound during the first half Wednesday in Portland, Ore.
(Steve Dipaola / Associated Press)

Frustrations continued to be exposed postgame, James not hiding behind phony optimism when talking about the likelihood of things just clicking into place. He said he knew before the Lakers played Milwaukee that they weren’t as good as the Bucks.

But he had to think they were better than this version of the Trail Blazers, a team that started second-round pick CJ Elleby and played him more than 43 minutes.

James scored 30 points — his streak of scoring 25 or more still alive — and Davis had 17 points and five blocked shots, but individual greatness this season has simply exposed the Lakers’ inability to play team ball.

Davis declined to speak postgame.

At times, mostly in the second quarter, the Lakers showed that it was possible — the ball swinging around the court and finding Talen Horton-Tucker, Trevor Ariza and seldom-used veteran Wayne Ellington for open shots.

But in the second half, all that rhythm disappeared, the Lakers falling back into the bad habits they’ve established over the first two-thirds of the season.

LeBron James scored 27 points, but the Lakers were no match for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 131-116 loss on Tuesday at Arena.

Instead of converting a two-on-one fast break, James had a pass intercepted, Portland making the Lakers pay with a three. Another chance at cutting the lead was spoiled by an offensive foul. And needing one last stop, Davis could only helplessly watch Portland grab a game-sealing offensive rebound.

It’s everywhere and everyone, the Lakers problems mounting by the minute as they run out of time to try to fix them at the deadline. Worn down by trying to tackle so many issues every time they take the court, the Lakers looked mentally and physically spent.

“It’s taken a toll,” Vogel said.

Maybe Rob Pelinka can add new players. But the bigger problem and the bigger question remains: Can these Lakers do enough to change?