When a team as talented as the Lakers decides they’re going to execute at a high level on both sides of the ball by playing focussed, inspired, and with determination there are few teams that can beat them (maybe not a single one, actually). The Blazers were no exception as they got outclassed by the Lakers 121-96. This team is now 7-0 to start the season and is seriously rolling right now.
Really this game was complete domination by the Lakers. They scored at will and clamped down on defense to the point that the Blazers looked befuddled at how to stop the crisp ball movement the Lakers exhibited while struggling to find ways to get decent looks themselves.
Defensively, everywhere the Blazers took the ball they found another layer of defense to overcome – usually unsuccessfully. When Portland found a brief crack in the Lakers’ interior defense, it quickly closed with multiple players there to dig at the ball and contest the shot when it did go up. When the ball went back out to the perimeter the Lakers swarmed even harder by trapping the ball when possible or just pressuring the ball handler into a difficult position when it wasn’t. It started with Ron Artest’s smothering defense on Brandon Roy who was locked down by Artest from the opening tip. Wherever Roy went he found Ron clamped onto him in a position to contest his every move. Roy ended the night with only 8 points and missed 5 of his 6 shots from the field only finding a rhythm when alone at the FT line.
And it wasn’t only Roy that struggled. LaMarcus Aldridge shot 33% from the floor and needed 9 shots to score his 8 points. Camby didn’t make a single basket and Wes Matthew made one of his five attempts from the floor. The only Blazers to show any life on offense were Andre Miller (20 points on 14 shots) and Nic Batum (17 points on 13 shots), but sadly for the Blazers it wasn’t nearly enough.
Not when the Lakers were scoring at will. On the evening the Lakers had an offensive efficiency of 130.1. To put that in perspective, last year the Suns led the league with a rating of 115.3. Against the Blazers the Lakers scored nearly 15 points more per 100 possessions than that Suns team. Pretty amazing display on offense by the Lakers in this game.
And, it all started with Pau Gasol. The Spaniard’s brilliant start to the season continued as Pau poured in 20 points on 13 shots and dismantled the Blazers’ defense with his passing, tallying 10 assists on the night. Every opening created by an over zealous Portland D was countered with a great pass by Pau. He ably hit cutters with hook passes and weakside shooters with skip passes. On one particular play he caught the ball while diving to the hoop and in one motion passed the ball back to the strong side corner to Artest for a wide open three. Offensively he was precise and decisive and his play fueled the Lakers. When you add his 14 rebounds to the mix and the resulting triple-double (the 4th of his career), Gasol was the best player on the floor and it showed in every way (including his team high +29).
His front court mate wasn’t too shabby either. Lamar too continued his strong play to start this year. After a dip in effectiveness on Friday against the Raptors, Odom was right back to playing top level ball. He hit 10 of his 15 shots and scored a team high 21 points and was second to only Gasol with 12 rebounds. There’s just little that Odom wasn’t doing right against Portland. When matched up against Camby in the mid post, he turned and faced, back dribbled, and buried a jumper. When the Blazers were slow getting back in transition, Odom pushed the ball to get himself a lay up. He read the defense superbly and made the correct read nearly every time down the floor. When Odom and Gasol have it going like they did tonight, Kobe can have an off night (3-11, 12 points in 26 minutes) and it doesn’t matter. This Lakers team is that good.
And I could go on and on, there were so many positives about this game. I mean, seven Lakers scored in double figures. The Lakers out rebounded the Blazers 49-25 and had nearly as many offensive rebounds (14) as Portland did defensive ones (19). Even Derrick Caracter got some extended burn (17 minutes) and contributed with 6 points, 3 boards, an assist and a block with a +8 on the night. Besides some of the fantastic games the Lakers had in last year’s playoffs, I can’t recall such a complete performance against a good team from the Lakers in some time.
So, enjoy this win. Before the game started I said that this game was a measuring stick game; a game against a team that will be a threat in the playoffs this season. And while I cautioned that too much can’t be taken from this single contest, I think this game shows that where the Lakers’ potential lies. I don’t expect them to be this good every night, but a performance like this shows what can be unleashed when everything is clicking. And that’s a scary proposition for whoever the opposition is.