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LeBron James Posts 21 and 16 in Lakers' Win over Blazers Despite Groin Injury

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IIIDecember 29, 2019

PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 28: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 28, 2019 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak by topping the Portland Trail Blazers 128-120 at the Moda Center on Saturday night.

LeBron James was questionable with a groin injury until just before game time. James re-aggravated it on Christmas Day against the Los Angeles Clippers after sitting out L.A.'s loss to the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 22 with a thoracic muscle strain.

James put in 37 minutes of work and served as the Lakers' second-leading scorer behind Kyle Kuzma. Aside from the three-time NBA champion, the Lakers pulled away because their reserves outscored the Blazers' bench 72-39.

Mike Trudell @LakersReporter

The 72 bench points are a season high for the Lakers.

The Lakers also outscored Portland 60-40 in the paint and 21-8 in fast-break points.

Portland lost starting forward Skal Labissiere to a left knee injury three minutes into the contest.

It marked the second time this month that the Lakers beat the Blazers in Portland. This result improved L.A. to 25-7 and dropped Portland to 14-19. The Blazers have lost three straight.

Despite losing four in a row, including to the Clippers on Christmas Day, the Lakers still lead the Western Conference.

      

Notable Performances

Los Angeles

F LeBron James: 21 points, 7 rebounds, 16 assists, 2 steals, 1 block

F Anthony Davis: 20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals

F Kyle Kuzma: 24 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist

    

Portland

G Damian Lillard: 31 points, 2 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 1 block

C Hassan Whiteside: 19 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks

G CJ McCollum: 18 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists

F Carmelo Anthony: 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block

     

Lakers Snap Losing Streak Behind Kyle Kuzma, Ailing LeBron James

James was able to play despite being a "true game-time decision" with an ailing groin and was still plenty effective, but Kuzma took off some pressure with a solid performance off the bench.

Kuzma, in his third game back from an ankle injury that cost him five games, was feeling it from the start Saturday night:

Mike Trudell @LakersReporter

Kuzma is definitely feeling good … he just made a 65-foot heave after the buzzer sounded to end the 1st. His 3 on the prior trip went in and out, his only miss after 3 early makes plus 3 FT’s gave him 9 points in 6 minutes. LAL lead 34-32.

Mike Trudell @LakersReporter

Kuz sits with 17 points on 6 of 7 FG’s, including a 2nd 3-pointer on the last trip. Looks super smooth. This is what LAL were looking for before that preseason injury he suffered w/Team USA set him back.

Mike Trudell @LakersReporter

The 3rd 3-pointer of the half from @kylekuzma got him to 20 points already. Kuz is shootinng 37.3% on the season from distance, a number on the rise.

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

#KuzControl in full effect 🔥 (📺: @SpectrumSN) https://t.co/TOzxDXoTKc

The 24-year-old forward entered halftime as the game's leading scorer with 20 points on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting from the field, including 3-of-5 from distance and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line. The only other double-digit scorer for the Lakers in the first half was James with 14 points.

Kuzma was held to four points in the second half, but he found other ways to positively influence the offense:

Mike Trudell @LakersReporter

LeBron packed Simons at the rim, and Kuz scored on the other end with a Euro step to put LAL up 109-101, despite LAL losing Anthony Tolliver - in there to shoot 3’s - for his 3rd and 4th triples off Portland’s bench. With 8:33 left, Kuz has 24 points, and LeBron 18P, 13A and 6R.

Mike Trudell @LakersReporter

What a play by the Lakers to end the 3rd Q: Kuz threw the inbounds pass like a QB to AD at the FT line, and he quickly fed KCP for a corner 3. Swish, and LAL lead 103-95 after an 11-3 run to close the period.

Though James is not fully healthy, the Lakers got a promising glimpse into what a James-Kuzma pairing can look like when firing on all cylinders. Kuzma has missed nine games total this season because of his ankle injury and a separate ankle injury while training with Team USA in August that delayed his 2019-20 debut until Nov. 1.

     

What's Next?

The Lakers will return home to host the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.

The Blazers will host the Phoenix Suns on Monday night.