Heading into Portland, the Lakers were looking to sweep another road trip, this time a shorter 3 game jaunt that saw them win in Denver and Utah on back to back nights. The Trail Blazers are not as good as those other teams, but winning in Portland is hard and after two really quality wins, if the Lakers would have lost it wouldn’t have been too surprising. Disappointing, sure. But not surprising.
Well, the Lakers didn’t disappoint. They rolled, again, beating the Blazers 136-113, scoring 77 points in the first half and, as the final score indicates, dominating the game. The Lakers are 20-3 now. Let that sink in. I’m not sure how good this team will be, but I can tell you they look damn good right now. And for a team that even the most optimistic analysts thought would take some time to mesh — after acquiring AD, hiring a new staff, and turning their roster over by more than half (again) — them playing with the type of chemistry and connectivity they are this early in the season is sort of scary.
There are certainly individual performances to highlight, here. AD was a monster. LeBron was, once again, so excellent is almost easy to take it for granted. JaVale was really good as a finisher. Kuzma hit shots. Rondo did some very good things as a shooter and (as he normally does) with his passing. Seeing these guys play well and impact the game was great.
But the bigger takeaway here is that the Lakers again looked like a team that was orders of magnitude better than their opponent. They had too many advantages and leveraged them to the point that the other team was not only being defeated, they looked defeated. If you’ve watched enough basketball, you know the look. It’s that little slump of the shoulders or that knowing nod of acceptance when the thing you just did that was successful was so easily matched by the other team the next possession. The very best teams do this to you. Right now, the Lakers are one of those teams.
I could go on here and tell you about the flow of the game, about how the Blazers hung tight early or the blow by blow description of how the Lakers took control, but I won’t. Because, honestly, while those details tell the story of the game, they really don’t. The story of the game was the more talented team playing to a level that the less talented team could not match. Just like what happened in Utah. And, though to a lesser extent, in Denver.
That’s not something Lakers fans are used to seeing go in their favor in recent years. But it’s here right now. I say enjoy that, if you’re a fan. It’s not that common.
And now, some notes…
- Portland really had no answers for Anthony Davis and this was a game where AD’s talent + production + overall skill level made him look like a real MVP candidate. There was anything he couldn’t do and when a player looks that dominant, it’s sort of just funny to consider how much a player like that changes the trajectory of your franchise.
- Now consider the Lakers also have LeBron James and…jeez. LeBron (31) and AD (39), combined for 70 points. LeBron added 8 assists, 7 rebounds, and a blocked shot. AD chipped in 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. Christmas stockings aren’t as stuffed as these boxscores.
- Those 77 points the Lakers scored in the 1st half? That’s the most they’ve put up in a 1st half since 1997. It’s the most they’ve scored in any half since 2014.
- This was the Lakers 11th straight road win…their most consecutive on the road since 1972-73. For those wondering, this was the season after the Lakers won a league record 33 games in a row overall.
- Sending good vibes to Rodney Hood right now. After securing a rebound and trying to get out into the open court, Hood stumbled to the ground and started grabbing his ankle area. Before the replay, I thought he might have twisted his ankle in traffic. Replay showed a non-contact injury, though, and during the game the Blazers reported that scans confirmed a ruptured achilles tendon for Hood. Just a brutal injury break for the Blazers who are down so many guys but are especially thin at all the forward spots.
- Damian Lillard is super good, man. His production wasn’t able to shift the odds of this game, but he’s so crafty off the dribble and as a finisher in the paint. He also just knows how to get his shot off against most any defense, even when the defender is bigger and staying with him well. What a talent.
- The Lakers blitzed Dame and CJ McCollum a lot this game to force the ball out of their hands in the P&R and I want to give credit to JaVale for how well he moved his feet and slide with both guards in order to keep containment off the dribble.
- Speaking of blitzing the Blazers guards, that strategy really highlighted how little playmaking Portland has at their big man spots. None of their bigs looked capable of catching a pocket pass and making a read/play in the short roll when playing 4 on 3.
- I thought Kuzma played well this game even if some of his numbers came in garbage time. His defense is trending up the last few games and he looked more comfortable as a shooter this game, particularly off the dribble. These are all things I love to see from him.
- Rondo played well in the 1st half, but a tight hamstring kept him from playing in the 2nd half. After the game Rondo did not seem too concerned, but this bears watching. Rondo’s been a real positive for this team of late, so I hope this isn’t serious.
- 17-36 from behind the arc for the Lakers. They actually hit 7 of their first 9 from behind the arc and that was after they’d started the game by scoring their first 17 points on 7-9 shooting all from the restricted area.1They also hit 3 FT’s. When the Lakers are hitting that many 3’s on that high of volume and scoring well inside, they’re basically unbeatable. There’s really no other way to say it.
That’s it for this one. Have a good Saturday.