The Trail Blazers opened Friday night’s game in Los Angeles against the Lakers like lions and ended it like lambs.
And the Lakers marched away with a 102-93 win over Portland that didn’t seem that close. It was a miserable second half that did in the Trail Blazers – who had defeated the Lakers 12 of the last 13 times the teams had met in the Staples Center.
But the Trail Blazers, who have now lost four straight games, went off the rails in the second half.
Portland led by as many as 11 in the first quarter, when shots were falling and the defense was effective. But things got progressively worse as Portland was outscored 31-19 in the third quarter, thanks to seven turnovers.
Los Angeles blitzed Damian Lillard on pick and rolls and double-teamed him whenever convenient – and the Trail Blazers acted as if they had never seen such tactics.
The Lakers turned those turnovers into 14 points and the Trail Blazers went stone cold from three-point range, hitting just 4-18 in the second half – many of them open because of the doubling on Lillard.
And it wasn’t as if the Lakers, who carried a four-game losing streak into the game, had a terrific game. Los Angeles shot only 42 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from three, which was worse than Portland’s 29.7 percent from long range.
The difference was points in the paint, where the Trail Blazers were outscored 52-30. Enes Kanter had 11 points and 17 rebounds but went just 3-9 from the field, with most of those shots in the restricted area.
When things broke down in the second half, Portland seemed to rely more and more on isolations, with little ball movement and few passes, often ending in missed three-point shots.
“Tonight was about our offense,” Terry Stotts said. ”There's always room to improve defensively, but tonight was about our offense. The Lakers did a really good job of being aggressive on us, created turnovers in the third quarter, and we weren't able to capitalize on some of the looks that we did have.”
The Trail Blazers won six straight prior to this losing streak and the losses coincided with a sharp uptick in the caliber of competition in those last three games.
And Portland isn’t getting many easy baskets. The Blazers forced just 17 total turnovers in the last three games and got only 30 points in the paint Friday.
On top of that, the bench scoring has dried up – the Laker reserves outscored Portland’s 35-13.
Ahead are three home games before the All-Star break and a chance to right the ship before the break. Charlotte, Golden State and Sacramento will provide the competition.