The best team in the Western Conference looked the part in Game 2.
The Los Angeles Lakers bounced back from a Game 1 loss to dominate the Portland Trail Blazers and even the series with a 111-88 win on Thursday night.
More important than the Game 2 loss for the Blazers, was the injury to Damian Lillard, who sustained a dislocated left index finger late in the third quarter. Lillard attempted to steal the ball from Lakers forward Anthony Davis on a swipe from behind and appeared to catch Davis’ heel. Lillard immediately grimaced before checking out of the game moments later following a stoppage in play.
X-rays on his finger came back negative, and Lillard said his finger was sore, but immediately brushed off the idea that the injury would cause him to miss anytime.
“Oh, I’m playing,” he said emphatically when asked about his availability for Saturday’s Game 3.
Portland overcame a poor shooting night in Game 1 by earning trips to the free throw line and hanging around long enough to let their familiar crunch time magic run its course. There was never an opportunity for late game heroics on Thursday.
The Lakers jumped out to a 17 point halftime lead and then watched it balloon to as high as 30 in a dominant third quarter. The game was decided before the four quarter started.
Anthony Davis was dominant for the Lakers, finishing with 32 points and 11 rebounds in less than 30 minutes.
The Lakers struggled on offense in the opening game of the series and Davis never found his rhythm and while teammates couldn’t buy a shot from beyond the three-point to alleviate some pressure on their All-Star big man. The script flipped in Game 2, Davis was aggressive getting to the rim and dominated the inside thanks to a more concerted effort to use his size and length to score downlow. To balance Davis’ more aggressive approach, the Lakers hit 14-of-38 three-pointers after shooting 5-for-32 in Game 1.
More importantly the Lakers defense dominated Portland, never letting Lillard and company find any sustained success. The Blazers overcame a poor shooting night in the series opener by getting 33 free throws and cashing in game-changing three-pointers in the final six minutes. But in Game 2 they attempted just 13 free throws and lost contact in the second quarter. There was no chance to change the game, it was over shortly after halftime.
“We just got outplayed,” Lillard said. “Obviously we came out and won the first game so it’s natural for them to come out and be a little bit more aggressive, to have a little bit more fight. We didn’t come out relaxed. They just came out harder than we did. It was their night and it didn’t that we didn’t pay well on the offensive end and they’re a team that wants to play fast and play in transition.”
Lillard had 18 points on 6-for-14 shooting. CJ McCollum added 13 points on 6-for-16 shooting and no other Blazer reached double-figures.
The Lakers flexed their muscle in Game 2, looking like the West’s top seed. But Lillard offered a bit of on-brand positivity after a sobering beatdown.
“They got us tonight. We got our butts kicked tonight,” he said. “But it’s just one game. I think that’s the beauty of it. It’s a series and they don’t get two wins for such a great effort. Being beat the way we got beat doesn’t count for two losses. It counts for one, and we get to come back in a tied series and keep going.”
-- What about Bron?
The conventional wisdom heading into Game 2 was that LeBron James was going to be more assertive looking for his own offense after his team dropped Game 1. Instead, James finished with 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting, adding seven assists and six turnovers.
-- Stalling out
The Blazers came into the game averaging 126 points per game in the bubble, a sizzling offense that had carried a shaky defense team into the playoffs. But after surviving an off-shooting in Game 1 where they won despite shooting 39 percent from the floor, the Blazers had one of their worst offensive performances of the season.
The Lakers defense made life extremely difficult for Portland, which shot 36 percent from the floor and finished with a season low 82 pointts. It marked just the eighth time in 85 total games, including the playoffs and the play-in round that the Blazers failed to reach the century mark.
-- No crunch time
Thursday was Portland’s 11th game at Disney World and after eight seeding games, a play-in victory and one playoff game the Blazers finally played a game that wasn’t decided in the final five minutes. It wasn’t the change of pace the Blazers were looking for, but after 11 games that were within five points in the final five minutes, Portland finally played a game decided outside of crunch time. Not ideal, but certainly new.
Game 3 is Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on ABC