Don’t let one blowout victory fool you, The Los Angeles Lakers are still in massive trouble against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
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As I’m sure you’ve seen by now the Lakers responded to their Game 1 defeat at the hands of Damian Lillard and the crew with a resounding win in Game 2. The Lakers shot close to 50 percent from the field and nearly 37 percent from behind the arc. Anthony Davis was a beast early, especially on the offensive glass, and, shockingly, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope actually played like a starting NBA guard last night.
The Trail Blazers were the complete opposite. Neither Lillard nor CJ McCollum scored over 20 points last night and their entire team’s offensive rhythm seemed to be off from the opening tip. After holding Davis to 33 percent shooting from the field in Game 1, the Portland bigs allowed him to shoot 62 percent from the field and 75 percent from downtown on Thursday night.
It was clear that the same sense of urgency we have seen from this Portland team since the start of bubble play was nonexistent last night. It was a game that was completely uncharacteristic of a team that is led by the bubble MVP and who is arguably the best player in the world right now.
Despite their lackluster performance, the Blazers are still in prime position to bounce the Lakers out in the first round.
No matter how great last night was for LA, the facts still remain.
The Lakers have inconsistent shooting options around the perimeter in Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, Markieff Morris, and others. They still lack the same depth as the Trail Blazers. And in a guard-controlled game, they still have no one who can match up with Lillard and McCollum once they get going.
Also, LeBron James has yet to show that he can consistently dominate this Trail Blazers team from the interior. James is averaging only 16.5 points per game in the series so far.
Many of the shots that Portland got in the first half yesterday were extremely makeable, they just didn’t go in. The Lakers’ defensive strategy still allowed too many open looks for consistent shooters on the Blazers’ roster, they just didn’t pay for it this time.
No player in Portland’s starting five shot over 40 percent from the field Thursday night and the team combined to shoot just 27 percent from three. These are occurrences that I don’t see continuing for a team that has been one of the highest-scoring squads in the league’s restart in Orlando and has one of the best backcourt tandems the league has seen in the past 20 years.
In their Game 1 victory, the Trail Blazers shot 38 percent from downtown and McCollum and Lillard combined for more than half of the Blazers offensive production. I see no reason why this game two loss won’t only be a drop in the bucket for the Blazers as they make their way through the series.
The only major problem that arose in the game for Portland was when Lillard dislocated his left index finger and was forced to leave the game in the third quarter. The star guard underwent X-rays after the game that turned out to be negative. Lillard said he will play in Game 3.
With a motivated Portland looking to bounce back on Saturday, I expect Game 3 to be a closely fought contest.
Don’t get it twisted, this isn’t a Kumbaya story for the Lakers yet. Portland’s still got all the tools to send them back to Hollywood.