The Trail Blazers responded from a Game 2 thrashing with a spirited and more effective Game 3. In the end, though, it was the same result.
The top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers pushed past the Blazers in the second half to earn a 116-108 win and take a 2-1 lead in their first round series.
Lebron James (38 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists) had a near triple-double and, after an abysmal start, Anthony Davis (29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) went to work late to help the Lakers put the game away.
Damian Lillard scored 34 points and CJ McCollum added 26, 20 of which came in the first two quarters. But the Lakers kept the game close with a parade of early free throws. Then Los Angeles tightened up its defense and the Blazers offense wilted down the stretch.
The Blazers didn’t make a three-pointer in the fourth quarter as their offensive struggles from the opening two games of the series reemerged against an engaged Lakers defense.
The Blazers’ offense struggled as a whole after halftime, that is, other than Carmelo Anthony, who was a one man show in the third quarter. Anthony kept the Blazers in striking distance by making all six of his shot attempts in the third, pouring in mid-range leaner after mid-range leaner to score 13 of his 20 points in the period.
Powered by their hot shooting backcourt, the Blazers led by four at halftime. But the Lakers scored 40 points in the third quarter to take a seven point lead in the fourth, and then put the game away late on the back of Davis’ pick-and-pop masterclass.
The Lakers lived at the free throw line. They moved in their furniture, paid their mortgage and met the neighbors. They lived there. The new residents certainly caught the Blazers’ attention.
"When a team is living at the free throw line like they did tonight,” Lillard said. “It’s hard to win a game when they are as good as they are."
Los Angeles took 31 free throws in the first half, and finished with a season-high 43 attempts.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a game where (the free throw differential) was that big,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “It certainly had an impact on the first half when I think the differential was 23.”
The Blazers took 19 free throws in the game and had just eight attempts in the first half.
Lucky for Portland the Lakers struggled to cash in their plentiful opportunities early, missing 13 first half free throws and finishing the game 28-for-43 at the stripe.
-- Going Big
Stotts tweaked his starting lineup removing rookie Wenyen Gabriel in favor of Hassan Whiteside, giving the Blazers a supersized frontline. Whiteside and Jusuf Nurkic gave Portland 14-feet of length up front in an effort to slow Los Angeles on the boards after they had an early advantage in Game 2.
Nurkic finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Whiteside added eight points and eight rebounds.
-- Simons Sighting
After not playing at all in Game 1, and getting mostly an extended run in garbage time in Game 2, Anfernee Simons was inserted into the regular rotation on Saturday. The Blazers needed an offensive boost following back to back games where they barely scratched 40 percent shooting from the field. So Stotts elected to go smaller playing Simons in three-guard lineups, giving him minutes that had gone to Gabriel and Mario Hezonja in the first two games.
Simons went scoreless, missing all four of his shot attempts in 14 minutes. Gabriel saw just under five minutes of action and Hezonja played less than six minutes.