LOS ANGELES – LeBron James did LeBron James things. You expect that and you can live with that many games.
But when Lonzo Ball, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope do things they don’t normally do, you’ve got a problem.
And the Trail Blazers had several problems Wednesday night in Staples Center when LeBron and his Lakers hung a 126-117 loss on Portland.
James hit five of his six three-point attempts and scored 44 points on 19 shots, along with gathering 10 rebounds and nine assists. He also passed Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time NBA scoring list.
“Anybody – when they’re hitting (three-point) shots like that, they are tough to guard,” said Portland’s Al-Farouq Aminu, who had the responsibility of chasing James around most of the game. “It’s the same with Dame. It’s a different complexity when somebody’s so good at getting to the rim and then they hit shots that well. It makes it tough.
“A lot of guys from their team stepped up, though. They made some big shots. Those guys played well, too.
“Trying to lock in on LeBron, he’s such a good passer, it makes it difficult. And with the veteran pieces they have, like (Rajon) Rondo, they understand the game and they get the most out of their supporting cast.”
The Trail Blazers were done in by their defense. Offensively, they were not at their best but 117 points and 42.4 percent shooting from three-point range should be good enough to win most games.
But the Lakers got 20 points, two steals and two blocked shots from McGee, who made life miserable in the paint for Portland’s penetrators.
And Caldwell-Pope knocked down three of his four three-point attempts en route to 13 points.
Heck, even the notoriously poor-shooting Ball got into the act, making three of five from three-point range, where the Lakers shot 46.9 percent.
The Trail Blazers took a 13-point lead in the first quarter but James began to heat up from the outside and Los Angeles had a four-point lead by halftime.
Portland Coach Terry Stotts wasn’t pleased with his team’s defense.
“We just couldn’t quite get over the hump in the second half,” he said. “Lebron had a dominant performance. When he’s making his threes and putting his head down (driving to the hoop) it’s tough to guard.
“Offensively, we did a good job most of the game. We passed the ball well, we made our threes early. Offensively it was a good night for us.
“We couldn’t get over the hump defensively.”
Portland gave up 50 points in the paint, a high number.
“A lot of those paint points are probably transition. We gave up too much transition.”
This was just Game 1 of a six-game road trip for the Trail Blazers and the mission now is not to let the hangover from this one cost another game or two.
Game 2 is Friday night in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves.