By Matthew Zimmer
Raise your hand if the second quarter, where the Blazers didn’t score a field goal for seven minutes, almost killed you? Raise your hand if the fourth quarter, where Portland didn’t score a single point for four minutes, nearly gave you a heart attack?
If your hand is still down, I don’t believe you.
The Portland Trail Blazers started the night leading by 16 in the first quarter. Then, they scored just 10 points — all on free throws — in the opening seven minutes of the second frame, before Damian Lillard hit a three.
Somehow, the Blazers still had a lead at halftime, barely 57-56, despite shooting 3-for-19 from the floor in the second.
Portland then did something they haven’t done most of the year; they won the third quarter.
The Blazers weren’t out of the woods yet. The Lakers went on a 14-3 run from the end of the third through the first four and half minutes in the fourth.
Despite the LA run, Portland fought back and finished the game on 19-6 run to close out Game 1, 100-93.
Jusuf Nurkic and Lillard paced the Blazers in the first half. Nurk had a double-double (10 points/10 rebounds) after the opening quarter. Lillard led the team with 15 points at the break.
CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. needed some adjusting at halftime. McCollum started it early in the third, scoring 16 of his 21 points in the second half. He scored 11 of the Blazers first 15 points of the third.
Melo and GTJ would come up big later.
In the fourth, after the Lakers 14-3 run, Lillard and McCollum led the Blazers on an 11-2 run. The Portland back court combined for eight straight points and all 11 points of the Blazer’s run to put them up three, 92-89.
Melo showed up with his massive three to put the Blazers up six with two and half minutes left. Then, LeBron James and Anthony Davis got back-to-back buckets in the paint, which cut Portland’s lead to two.
Next, Gary Trent, Jr. came up clutch.
The shot clock was down to seven. Dame to Melo, LeBron leaves Trent to cover Melo, the extra pass to a wide-open Trent. Davis tries to close late, but the shot is already up. The first (and only) three pointer GTJ made put the Blazers up five.
Overall, Lillard finished with 34 points, five assists and five rebounds. Nurkic had 16 points and 15 boards. McCollum collected 21 points and five rebounds.
Wenyen Gabriel deserved a mention before this point in the recap, but the rookie did a lot despite only scoring four points. In place of the injured Zach Collins, Gabriel gave Terry Stotts a ton of energy in 16 minutes of work.
Yes, Gabriel was tagged with five fouls in the game, but some of those fouls were because he was guarding Davis who got the benefit of the doubt on a few calls. If Collins can’t go on Thursday for Game 2, Gabriel earned a second straight start.
Hassan Whiteside struggled against Memphis, and although he wasn’t spectacular against LA he did play big minutes with Gabriel and Nurkic in foul trouble. Whiteside finished with seven points and eight rebounds.
As for the Lakers, Davis and James led the way, as expected with 28 and 23 points, respectively.
Both teams did not shoot well. Portland was 31/79 (39.2%) overall, including 13/34 from three (38.2%). Los Angeles was 34-of-97 (35.1%) from the floor and an abysmal 5-fo-32 (15.6%) from three.
Game 1 marks the first game Portland held an opponent under 100 points in 36 games (Jan. 7 at Toronto). You can’t expect the Lakers to shoot this poorly from three all series, or ever again.
Question marks still linger for both teams. Will Zach Collins be available for Game 2? When will Rajon Rondo play for the Lakers? Rondo just cleared quarantine in the NBA bubble, and he’s still dealing with a fractured thumb. However, he did warm up before Game 1.
Game 2 is Thursday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN.
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