The Lakers jumped out to a quick start with a 17-5 lead Monday night against the Trail Blazers.
L.A. started the game shooting over 61 percent midway through the first quarter.
It looked like it could be a rough night for Portland.
But then, the Blazers' bench breathed instant life into the team. Or, more specifically, it was the spark-plug of the night on both ends, Gary Trent Jr., who scored a quick eight points and led the initial comeback.
The Blazers took charge in the second quarter thanks to Trent Jr.’s three-point shooting, CJ McCollum’s masterful play running point, and Enes Kanter dominating on the boards.
Portland held on for the 115-107 win.
With veteran Carmelo Anthony not making the trip to Los Angeles due to Health and Safety Protocols, that made way for Trent Jr.
And that worked out well for the Blazers Monday.
Even when the Lakers went on runs in the second half, Portland was able to stop the bleeding.
Damian Lillard provided the scoring punch in the second half, while Rodney Hood brought the energy off the bench and Trent Jr. continued his scoring ways.
The Blazers also showed that their team defense is coming together led by Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington.
The bench provided the exact scoring boost that the Blazers needed.
Gary Trent Jr., after playing just six minutes in Portland’s win over the Rockets Saturday, proved to Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and the rest of the NBA world that he deserves more minutes.
Whether he was making Kyle Kuzma work for it on the perimeter or when he switched onto a bigger player down low, Trent Jr. made it uncomfortable for the Lakers on that end with his pesky defense.
He was also hitting from deep.
Trent Jr. tied his career high with four made three-pointers in a half. During his 14 minute-first-half stint, Trent Jr. led all scorers with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three in the first half. GTJ finished with 28 points while tying his career high in threes with seven makes on the night.
When the starters returned to the floor with a lead in the second quarter, they looked like they had an extra bounce. Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington were active slashing or cutting to the rim, while Jones Jr. used his length and athleticism to make it tough on LeBron James on the other end with the help of Covington.
Portland took a four-point lead at the break after outscoring L.A. 36-24 in the second quarter.
The Blazers were also able to weather the storm of the Lakers’ flurry of second-half points.
Late in the third quarter, it was Rodney Hood who helped claw away at the Lakers' run. His playmaking ability was on full display.
Portland struggled from three especially to start the game.
Plus, the energy coming out of halftime didn’t seem to be there as the Lakers tightened up their defense in the third. L.A. went on a 13-0 run to take a 67-61 lead just four minutes into the quarter.
Dennis Schroder also got it going in the third. He had plenty of success on the fastbreak and off the dribble.
The Highlight: Watching Derrick Jones Jr. sneak along the baseline and then throw down the jam is always fun!
Or how about the DJJ block on King James!?
The Stat: The Blazers started the game going 1-for-9 from deep, but even though they didn’t shoot well from long distance, they made up for it in volume. Portland made 16-of-46 for the game to L.A.’s 10-of-27.
Before the game tipped off, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed how his second unit could go big or small depending on the matchups since they were without Carmelo Anthony.
The Gary Trent Jr. lineup certainly worked out well.
Next up: The Blazers will stay in L.A. before facing the Clippers at Staples Center Wednesday, Dec. 30. The Blazers and Clippers are slated to tip-off at 7:00p.m. PST on NBCSNW.