The snarl was in full effect Monday night at Staples Center.
With his pure shooting and his tenacious defense, Trail Blazers backup guard Gary Trent Jr. shined on the biggest stage.
After struggling from long distance and getting out worked on the other end, the Blazers found themselves in a quick 17-5 hole against the defending champs Monday night.
But that quickly changed for the Blazers when Trent Jr. entered the game.
The No. 37 pick in 2018 swiftly showed once again why he was the breakout player of the Orlando bubble. Trent Jr. scored a quick eight points and led the Blazers in their initial comeback in the first half. He also made timely buckets in the final period to help the Blazers secure a 115-107 victory over the Lakers.
With veteran Carmelo Anthony unavailable due to Health and Safety Protocols, it paved the way for Trent Jr.
After not seeing the court in the second half of Saturday’s win over Houston, and only playing six minutes in that game, Trent Jr. didn’t sulk or think twice about it.
He responded with one of the best performances of his young career.
Damian Lillard summed up GTJ’s performance perfectly:
Or how about Derrick Jones Jr.’s description of Trent Jr.’s game?
And as always, Trent Jr. had the mentality to be sure to stay ready.
Postgame he discussed just that, saying, "my approach every game should be come in, be ready, stay ready."
The third-year guard finished the game with 28 points after tying his career-high in threes made with seven.
GTJ said that he didn’t have any extra motivation in this one after playing limited minutes on Saturday.
But that stay ready mentality was surely effective for the third year wing.
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts mentioned postgame that he didn’t know if Saturday’s game had an effect on GTJ’s performance Monday.
But Stotts did call Trent Jr.’s game “outstanding.”
Both Coach Stotts and Lillard emphasized the importance of Trent Jr.’s instant spark off the bench.
"He got us back into it both in the first half – especially in the first half,”Stotts added. “His shot making in the first half got us over the hump.”
Coach Stotts also defended his decision on playing Anferenee Simons in the second half against Houston over Trent Jr.
It became an animated discussion postgame about the decision of whether or not to go with Trent Jr.
“It’s been two games, it’s not a night-to-night basis. We’ve only played three games. It’s not a night-to-night basis, come on. Now tonight, it was tough because [Gary] had a really good game going and Derrick [Jones Jr.] had a really good defensive game going. It’s not on a night-to-night basis. We’ve had two games where it’s been a decision,”Stotts said of trying to decide to keep Trent Jr in the game down the stretch.
This is always a great problem to have.
So much depth, though, means tough decisions for Coach Stotts.
While the extra motivation wasn’t a topic of conversation postgame for Trent Jr., he did show once again that he’s all about the team.
“We got our first win on the road, so that’s most important.”
Whether he was defending Kyle Kuzma on the perimeter or was forced to switch onto a bigger player, Trent Jr. made it uncomfortable for the Lakers on that end with his pesky defense.
Lillard was appreciative of the way GTJ responded after Saturday’s game.
“He was coming off a game where he played less than 10 minutes, so I think to have your mind right in the space to come out tonight and to not be irritated and frustrated and take yourself out, he came out with the right kind of mentality and it led to a great performance by him,” Lillard said.
Extra motivation or not, Monday’s win proved Coach Stotts has a deep roster with plenty of decisions to make, and he has the luxury of Trent Jr.’s capabilities of staying ready at the ultimate level.
Just remember, he’s different.