LOS ANGELES– Entering Friday’s meeting the Los Angeles Lakers had lost their last four games against the Portland Trail Blazers, and that trend continued as they fell 107-77.
The game quickly got out of hand from the start as Lillard scored 14 out of the Trail Blazers’ first 20 points, while Los Angeles shot just 25 percent from the field resulting in a double-digit deficit at 26-12 heading into the second quarter.
Clarkson’s 12 points in the final three minutes in the second quarter helped cut the deficit to 52-39, but that didn’t translate to momentum in the second half. Portland maintained their double-digit lead throughout the third quarter, but Clarkson caught fire once again scoring eight in the last three minutes to quarter to cut the margin to 74-63.
That was short-lived as the Trail Blazers took completely command of the game with C.J. McCollum notching nine of his bench-high 27 points in the fourth quarter that closed the door on any comeback from the Lakers.
“I was disappointed at the start because I don’t think we came ready to play tonight. I really didn’t,” Lakers head coach Byron Scott said. “I though they out like ‘listen, let’s punch them in the mouth and see how they react.’ I didn’t think we reacted very well I’m disappointed in that aspect.”
Lakers have tied their franchise record of 55 regular seasons losses for the second consecutive year. Here are five things we learned from Friday’s loss:
Clarkson keeps improving
Clarkson had yet another daunting challenge on his hands with Lillard, and he once again proved to be up to the task against a formidable opponent.
He started the game on the right foot scoring the first six Laker points on 3-0f-4 shooting. He also had an impressive pass to Ryan Kelly in transition that he threw down a one-hand slam, and finished the opening quarter with a team-leading six points and three rebounds.
After being quiet for much of the second quarter, he caught fire in the final three minutes of the period scoring 12 out of the Lakers last 14 points. This included nailing back-to-back 3 pointers to cut the deficit to 52-39.
He continued to be a factor in the third quarter with eight points and three assists in the period. This included an impressive alley-oop pass to Tarik Black that he slammed home. However, Clarkson once again left his best work for the end of the quarter as he scored all his points in the final three minutes to help narrow the deficit to 74-63 heading into the final quarter of play.
Clarkson was limited in the fourth quarter scoring just one point, but it didn’t take away from another impressive night from the rookie.
“I thought he took the challenge like he has all season long. He single-handedly got us back in the game in the second quarter,” Scott said. “He’s a guy that has that mental and physical toughness that we’re talking about. He plays with a little bit of a chip and I though that’s what he did in the second quarter to get us back in the game. I thought he did that in the third quarter as well.”
Scott had also praised the 22-year-old prior to the game for earning Western Conference rookie of the month for March, and also stated that he is ahead of schedule in terms of his development as a player due to his hard work on the court.
Just the fact that the game is slowing down for him. He sees it a little clearer,” Scott said. “It’s not such a blur to him. He still has to work on his change of speed at times, but for the most part you can see plays start to happen. Whereas earlier in the season the play would happen and was over with before he saw what was really going on. Now he is seeing when plays are going on, and he is delivering the ball in the right place and right time.”
Although Clarkson has been playing well of late, Scott remained non-committal to stating that Clarkson would be the team’s starting point guard next season, but did say he would “definitely” be back with the team next year.
“I think the thing right now with him is that we know he is going to be on our team next year,” Scott said. “We have to add pieces, there’s no doubt about that. I don’t think we necessarily say we’re building around him, but we have to add pieces with him and that’s the biggest thing right now.”
With so much still influx, much could change over the offseason in free agency or through the to draft. Until then, there can only be room for much speculation.
Lillard loves playing the Lakers
In his first three seasons in the NBA, Lillard has quickly risen up the ranks as one of the best young point guards in the league. During that span he also torched the Lakers for a 25.9 points per game in 10 career meetings.
This trend continued on Friday as he got off to a fast start making his first five shots of the game, including four consecutive 3-pointers, which accounted for 14 out of his team’s first 20 points of the night.
“I just took they gave me,” Lillard said, who finished with 20 points in the win. “Our bigs set really good screens, so I got off and got a of really good opens looks. It was pretty much rhythm shots.”
For his counterpart, it was the fact that Lillard got a little too comfortable in the early goings that led to his offensive explosion.
“We just had to get into him and make him a little more uncomfortable,” Clarkson said. “He was a little too comfortable in the beginning and I put that on myself. I should have been more aggressive. I just had to [tap] him on the defensive end.”
He cooled off a bit in the second quarter with just two points on 1-of-3 shooting, and had only four points and three assists in the second half. However, his limited production was mostly accredited to the fact that his team had the game well in hand, and his backup in McCollum was in the midst of a career-best night.
Despite that, there is no denying that Lillard gets up a little more when he plays the Lakers, and Friday night was no different for the 24-year-old.
Lin’s shooting woes
Hoping to bounce back from a bad shooting performance against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, Lin’s struggles continued against Portland.
It was a rough going in the first half for the 26-year-old as he went scoreless in the first half missing all six of his shot attempts, including the two free throw attempts he had. It didn’t get any easier in the second half as Lin’s only make of the night was early in the third quarter.
Lin didn’t take the floor for the final quarter of play, but it was another forgettable game for him as it was just the second time this season that he went without recording a single assist. It was another game that could be chalked up as an off-night for him as he is likely still dealing with the linger effects of the upper respiratory issue that he dealt with over the past week.
Outside of his recent struggles, Lin has played well since the All-Star which he is averaging 14.5 points and 5.1 assists in 19 games. His level of play has been encouraging in totality, but his recent stretch goes back to his inability to play with consistency this season.
All in all, Sunday’s game against the Clippers will be another chance for Lin to bounce back after a string of frustrating games.
Buycks makes Lakers’ debut
Just hours after signing a 10-day contract with the Lakers, Dwight Buycks made his debut with his new team as he finished with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting with one rebound, and one assist in six minutes played.
Scott had stated prior to the game that he wanted to see Buycks in practice before putting him into, but the circumstances of the game late in the fourth quarter made his time on the floor plausible. When on the court Buycks took the reigns offense alongside Jabari Brown.
He hit his first two shots with 3-pointer from the wing, and followed it up with a jumper in the lane. In between these possessions he dished out an assist on a feed to Ed Davis rolling to the basket for a layup. He later knocked down a second 3-pointer in the final minute of the game.
Buycks didn’t anticipating taking the floor without going through practice, but was ready to get out there and show we can bring to the team.
“It was fun,”Buycks told Sports Out West. “It was the first game, I just got here and I didn’t know too many plays but I knew couple of them. It was fun to get out there get a run and compete a little bit. If my number was going to called I was going to do the couple of plays I know.”
Scott was impressed by the poise that Buycks played with in his first game with the team.
“For the six and a half minutes, I thought he was very poise and I think he his more of a true point guard,” Scott said. “Just the few sets that we kind of gave him, he seemed to have a pretty good command of them. He made a couple of quick passes and decisions,then when he had shots he took them. In a quick little six minutes I thought I like hist kid and he was pretty impressive, so we will see what happens Sunday.
Buycks’ play was encouraging in his limited minutes, and he will have his next chance to make another impression on Sunday night the Los Angeles Clippers.
As is the case for many of his teammates, it has been a frustrating season for Wesley Johnson. However, that wasn’t the deal on Friday night as he recorded his third double-double of the season with 11 points and tied a career-high 15 rebounds in 38 minutes played.
The 27-year-old did most of his damage in the first half notching a near double-double with seven points and 10 rebounds. He made his largest contribution in the second quarter with five points and six rebounds in the period.
Although Johnson’s production tailed off a bit in the second half with just four points and five rebounds, it was an encouraging night from the four-year veteran.
“I knew there was going to be opportunities for me to crash the boards,” Johnson said. “The main focus we drew up was to crash and get those second chance opportunities. I took that notion and went out there and tried to do it.”
Since putting on a Lakers’ uniform two years ago, he has struggled to play with any level of consistency, and hasn’t truly progressed as a player despite possessing the unique physical ability with his athleticism and length. Johnson has had the chance to breakout and fulfill that massive potentially he has, but hasn’t taken that next leap in his career.
All in all, Johnson,will have seven more games to show the Lakers that he is worth bringing back next season.
Bob Garcia IV
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