Monday, Dec. 28: Blazers 115, Lakers 107
The skinny: Gary Trent Jr. hardly played in the Trail Blazers' previous game, a win against Houston, which coach Terry Stotts said came down to a coach's decision — Anfernee Simons was the better fit in the second half against the Rockets.
Well, Trent, who went scoreless in just under six minutes against Houston, returned to getting ample minutes, and he didn't disappoint. The reserve guard had seven 3-pointers, including three in an 11-point personal fourth-quarter burst, and Portland executed offensively down the stretch to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 115-107 Monday at the Staples Center.
Trent's 3-pointer gave the Blazers a 96-91 lead, but the Lakers went ahead 99-98 on Montrezl Harrell's three-point play. Jusuf Nurkic followed with a layup to put Portland back ahead with 5:15 left and Damian Lillard canned a 3-pointer and Portland never trailed again.
After an offensive rebound, Nurkic sealed the win with a 16-foot shot with 20 seconds left.
The Blazers moved to 2-1 after a win in the first game of a four-game road trip.
Lillard had 31 points, hitting five 3-pointers. Trent scored 28 points in 24 minutes to power strong Portland bench play and CJ McCollum had 20 points with 11 assists. Posts Nurkic and Enes Kanter combined for 22 points and 26 rebounds, going a combined 11-of-16 shooting.
LeBron James had 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists to lead the NBA's defending champs, but Anthony Davis, coming off a bruised calf injury, scored only 13 points (two in the first half) with 10 rebounds. Dennis Schroder had 24 points for the Lakers (2-2).
The Blazers had 19 more 3-point attempts and six more makes, going 16 of 46 from long distance.
The Blazers trailed 85-84 after three quarters, but tied it when Lakers' coach Frank Vogel received a technical foul for arguing a call. McCollum made the free throw, and the Blazers ended up outscoring the Lakers 31-22 in the final quarter.
Quotable: "We realize that we can be a good team," Stotts said. "We just beat the defending champs, and they're a great team."
Said Lillard: "We're just getting more comfortable with each other, and we're bringing more energy."
Lillard's take: Lillard said the Lakers "had the best offseason" of any team in the NBA, adding the likes of Harrell, Schroder and Marc Gasol, "adding guys to what they already had from a championship team."
Intangibles: Robert Covington (six rebounds, three steals, block) and Derrick Jones Jr. (three blocks) made a difference with defense, including on James and Davis, despite going a combined 0 of 11 on 3-pointers.
"Derrick did a really good job with (James) and made him work for it," Stotts said. "Robert was outstanding guarding Anthony Davis."
Anthony out: Carmelo Anthony did not make the trip to Los Angeles. He's listed as out with health and safety protocols; it's the same description given to Nassir Little's absence. UPDATE: Anthony rejoined the team Tuesday.
Back-to-back: The Lakers were playing in a back-to-back situation, having blown out Minnesota the night before.
They led 17-5 at the start, and had a 15-0 run in the third quarter to lead by eight points, 69-61, but Portland fought back.
"We just had trouble sustaining that intensity," Vogel said.
Next up: The Blazers play the Los Angeles Clippers at 7 p.m. Wednesday, followed by games at Golden State on Friday and Sunday.
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