The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the visiting Los Angeles Lakers 105-90 on Saturday at the Moda Center.
Damian Lillard broke out of his shooting slump by hitting 9-of-19 shots (6-of-14 from three-point range) en route to game-high 25 points. The six-time All-Star entered Saturday shooting just 33.8 percent from the field.
Thanks in part to his efforts, the Blazers led 51-36 at halftime before pouring in 42 more third-quarter points for a 93-62 edge going into the final 12 minutes. L.A. outscored Portland 28-12 in a garbage-time fourth quarter to make this game closer than it appeared.
The 5-5 Lakers played without LeBron James, who is out with an abdominal strain. ESPN's Dave McMenamin reported Thursday that James is expected to miss "at least one week," per a source.
Lakers big man Anthony Davis, who was listed as questionable on the injury report with a right thumb sprain, started but left after just seven minutes due to a stomach illness. Carmelo Anthony started for Davis in the second half.
The 5-5 Blazers are on a two-game win streak.
Lakers PG Russell Westbrook: 8 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals
Lakers F Carmelo Anthony: 12 points, 2 blocks
Blazers PG Damian Lillard: 25 points, 6 assists, 2 steals
Blazers PF Robert Covington: 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Blazers C Jusuf Nurkic: 15 points, 17 rebounds, 3 steals
Dame Time Returns
Lillard has made the All-Star team each of the last four seasons. During that stretch, he has shot 44.9 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from three-point range, per Basketball-Reference. The Oakland, California, native has a penchant for pulling up from midcourt logos, drilling shots from 30-plus feet and consistently delivering late-game daggers.
That Damian Lillard had not appeared through the first nine games as the Blazers struggled to a 4-5 start. The 10-year NBA veteran entered Saturday averaging just 17.8 points on 33.7 percent shooting (21.7 percent from three-point range).
That changed this weekend as Lillard's sweet shooting helped end this game early.
Lillard started the game with 10 points in five minutes capped by a three-pointer with two Lakers in his vicinity:
That helped the Blazers lead the Lakers 36-14 after one quarter, and Portland never looked back.
He did it all for Portland as he knocked down threes and took on defenders one-on-one in mid-range:
As Lakers reporter Mike Trudell said early in the night, Lillard's hot shooting wasn't a surprise.
He also joined some elite company along the way, per Jay Allen of Rip City Radio 620:
Jay Allen @PDXjay
.<a href="https://twitter.com/Dame_Lillard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Dame_Lillard</a> just scored the 17,000th point of his career. Playing in his 692nd game, he is the 17th-fastest player to reach that total in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBA</a> history. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RipCity?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RipCity</a>
The guess here is that Lillard's 2021-22 season closely resembles his Saturday output rather than his opening nine-game stretch. It's a long season ahead regardless as the Blazers look to produce a playoff-bound regular season en route to a deep postseason run.
Shorthanded Lakers Struggle in Defeat
There are a few ways to look at this game from a Lakers' perspective.
On the glass-half-full side, the Lakers were without James for the entire game and Davis for all but seven minutes. The team is built around that duo plus Russell Westbrook, so the Lakers effectively playing without two-thirds of their big three naturally led to a defeat.
Plus, it's not easy to replace players with massive production in James (24.8 PPG, 7.0 APG, 5.5 RPG) and Davis (25.4 PPG, 11.9 RPG).
On the flip side, the Lakers were completely uncompetitive. They were down 22 points after one quarter and trailed by as many as 34. They never led in this game and allowed the Blazers to score 42 third-quarter points to render the final 12 minutes moot.
L.A. also shot just 34.4 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers. Westbrook was responsible for six of those and shot just 1-of-13.
Everyone in the Lakers' starting lineup finished with a minus-11 or worse, including Davis, despite playing just seven minutes. None of them had an answer down low for Jusuf Nurkic, who got his 15 points and 17 rebounds in just 22 minutes.
Overall, there's no reason to press the panic button with the season just 10 games old. At the same time, there is a level of concern when the team folds like a house of cards without James and Davis.
Simply put, L.A.'s supporting cast needs to do far better than it has thus far, although the team has a lot of time to figure that out.
Both teams will play their next games in Los Angeles' Staples Center.
L.A. will host the Charlotte Hornets on Monday at 10:30 p.m. ET. One day later, the Blazers will play the Clippers at 10 p.m.