Damian Lillard Leads Blazers to Game 1 Win vs. LeBron James, LakersAugust 19, 2020
The Portland Trail Blazers have been the story of the bubble with Damian Lillard dominating and leading his team into the postseason.
It appears as if that story will not end quickly in the first round.
Portland defeated the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers 100-93 in Tuesday's Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series at Walt Disney World Resort. Lillard once again spearheaded the effort for the victors with a brilliant showing, while LeBron James and Anthony Davis led the way for the Lakers.
While Los Angeles won two of three regular-season matchups, the Trail Blazers are playing with plenty of momentum and don't resemble a typical No. 8 seed at this point.
Notable Player Stats
- Damian Lillard, G, POR: 34 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST
- CJ McCollum, G, POR: 21 PTS, 5 REB
- Jusuf Nurkic, C, POR: 16 PTS, 15 REB
- Carmelo Anthony, F, POR: 11 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST
- LeBron James, F, LAL: 23 PTS, 17 REB, 16 AST
- Anthony Davis, F, LAL: 28 PTS, 11 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK
- Kyle Kuzma, F, LAL: 14 PTS, 8 REB
Dame Time Once Again
The biggest storyline entering this series was whether Los Angeles could at least prevent Lillard from completely taking over without Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo available to guard him.
After all, Lillard won the bubble MVP by averaging 37.6 points and 9.6 assists during the eight seeding games as Portland went 6-2 and played its way into the play-in matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies. After dropping more than 40 points in four of those games, including the 61 he scored against the Dallas Mavericks, he finished with 31 points and 10 assists while eliminating Memphis.
Even LeBron told reporters the Trail Blazers were "not your typical eighth seed" with the "two-headed monster" of Lillard and CJ McCollum.
The leader of that monster wasted no time setting the tone, drilling multiple triples, slashing through the lane and making the Lakers' short-handed backcourt work to keep up with him. That Lillard could focus more of his attention on the offensive side with Jusuf Nurkic dominating the glass made it all the easier, and the Trail Blazers jumped out to a quick double-digit lead.
McCollum joined the party with 11 points in the third quarter, and Portland was right where it wanted to be entering the series when it started the fourth with a chance, tied 78-78.
Dame Time came just in time, as the Lakers were seemingly in control up six before he and McCollum drained back-to-back threes to tie it. From there, McCollum connected on a key runner, Hassan Whiteside protected the rim with two monster blocks, Lillard pulled up from just inside half court as he so beautifully does, and Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. both drilled triples with the attention on Lillard.
James may be an all-time great, but it was Lillard who controlled crunch time Tuesday.
Lakers' Offensive Struggles Continue
The seeding games were nothing but warm-ups for the Lakers, seeing as how they were well ahead of the L.A. Clippers for the No. 1 seed.
Still, there was some reason for concern as they went through the motions on the way to a 3-5 record with an offensive rating that was 20th of 22 teams, per NBA.com. It was easy to assume James could just flip the switch as a three-time champion who has been to the NBA Finals nine times and understands what it takes to navigate the grind come playoff time.
It was more of the same out of the postseason gates with the Lakers missing all eight of their three-pointers in the first quarter.
James, surely recognizing nobody on Portland can realistically match up with his combination of size and athleticism, took over as a facilitator by forcing additional attention his way and finding Davis and others with his head-turning vision.
The King notched a triple-double by the end of the third quarter, and, much like Lillard on the other side, put his team in position to win heading to the fourth.
Still, the Lakers didn't have the firepower to keep up with Lillard's side. James' threes rimmed out, Davis scored two points in the entire fourth and the Purple and Gold chucked their way to a 5-of-32 (15.6 percent) mark from downtown.
They looked nothing like a No. 1 seed with championship-or-bust expectations and more like a team that may not have the offensive ability outside of James and Davis to keep up with the red-hot Trail Blazers.
Game 2 of the series is Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.