The Trail Blazers have had a rough time making shots so far against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
In the two games so far, Portland has made just 33 percent of its three-point field goals and 39.6 percent of its shots overall. And that’s coming off the eight-game seeding series when the Trail Blazers were at 41.4 percent from three and 47.8 percent overall.
Obviously, the seeding-games statistics were not going to be sustainable. Particularly for a team that shot 37.7 percent from three and 46.3 overall through 74 regular-season games.
Portland was due for some evening out of percentages after the first eight games. The law of averages is pretty tough to break or even bend. But it works both ways and a logical conclusion would be that the Blazers’ overall percentage is probably due for a big jump soon and the three-point shooting will inch up, too.
But make no mistake, for all the attention LeBron James and Anthony Davis get for their offense, the Lakers are very, very good at the defensive end. This team lived off its defense and transition game for most of the season.
Los Angeles ranked third behind Milwaukee and Toronto in Basketball-Reference’s defensive ratings at 107.14 points per 100 possessions. The Lakers have JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard inside to block shots, Davis able to defend multiple positions and protect the rim at power forward and one of the best defenders in basketball in James.
This can be a very intimidating group and even in the Trail Blazers’ win, Portland struggled to make shots.
The Lakers did a good job of making Damian Lillard work for his points in Game 2 and defended him on the pick and roll by bringing the big man up, rather than dropping him. It often put a stop to Lillard’s ability to come off the high pick and shoot an open three.
And they picked him up far out, got help on his drives and cut off his passing lanes.
Things wouldn’t have been so bad for Portland if Lillard could have found consistent three-point shooters -- but there were none Thursday night.
Of the group of CJ McCollum, Gary Trent Jr., Carmelo Anthony, Mario Hezonja and Jusuf Nurkic, at least two players must emerge as threats from the outside.
The Blazers also looked tired in Game 2, perhaps the product of the score in the second half, which has a mental impact that often turns into a physical one.
Nurkic, especially, appears to be drained, which would be understandable, given his lack of game experience over the last year and a half.
Can Portland bounce back Saturday? Certainly. If Lillard is able to make shots with that sore left index finger and others emerge as scorers, it could be a close game.
But it appears that the Lakers are back to being themselves again, which means they are going to be a real problem.