Trail Blazers

The Los Angeles Lakers offense was really that awful but will it improve?

Trail Blazers
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The Portland Trail Blazers' defense is awful.

In the seeding games, they ranked 20th (out of 22) in defensive rating with 120.4, nearly seven points worse per 100 possessions than its regular-season defensive rating of 113.6 that itself ranked 27th. 

However, on Tuesday night a stoppable force met a moveable object: the Los Angeles Lakers offense.

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The 8th seeded Trail Blazers upset top-seeded Los Angeles 100-93 in Game 1 of their first-round series. It was only the third time all season a Trail Blazers opponent scored fewer than 99 points. 

The Lakers' reliance on playing a center next to Anthony Davis, presumingly to placate his desire to not play the five ahead of his free agency, greatly benefits Portland, who had a Nurkic-Whiteside pairing play 11 minutes outscoring Los Angeles by 13 in that span. The Trail Blazers will pack the paint with rim protectors and send help at LeBron and Davis on the block, and force the Lakers subpar supporting cast make outside shots.

On Tuesday night, the Lakers couldn't get anything going from outside, with just one Laker shooting above 25% from three all night: Markieff Morris who made his lone attempt. Los Angeles shot 15.6% from three-point range (5-for-32) including 0-8 from the right corner which should be one of the best shots in basketball. 

It wasn't like Portland was forcing heavily contested looks either. The Lakers shot 30 catch-and-shoot attempts, making just six of them, per Matt Moore.

 

“We’re getting good looks. It’s just a matter of taking our time and knocking them down,” Anthony Davis told Yahoo Sports. “That’s been our whole little M.O. in the restart, not being able to consistently knock down the three-ball. We shot like 15 percent tonight. We have to make sure that when the ball comes to us, we take our time and knock down the shot. That’s the only way we’re going to clear that paint. Guys are sinking in the paint and daring us to make shots, and right now we’re not doing that. It’s just making it tough on everybody.”

Additionally, the Lakers could not buy a bucket when not in transition posting a 77.0 offensive rating in the halfcourt which would rank in the 0th percentile in the NBA. They scored on just two of their final 17 halfcourt possessions, with one of those buckets being a LeBron James tip-in off, yes you guessed it, a missed open three-pointer.

Outside the restricted area, the Lakers shot 16% (9-for-54). From floater range, they shot 7.6% (1-for-13). 

If the Lakers weren't shooting at the rim, the ball was not going in. Between that and the Lakers' reliance on playing two big men, it allowed Portland to pack the paint and live with the results. 

But will that be a viable strategy for Portland moving forward? It will have to be.

The Blazers mixed up their defensive looks in Game 1 changing up from man-to-man and a zone defense frequently. What didn't change, was their philosophy to pack the paint and it worked. Will it work every game? Perhaps not but it just needs to three more games out of six. 

The Lakers have one obvious adjustment in playing Anthony Davis at center but if Frank Vogel, a coach who doesn't have a reputation for making great playoff adjustments, decides to do that remains to be seen. If that happens, Portland may need to match offense with offense. 

Portland's lineup of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Gary Trent Jr., Carmelo Anthony, and Jusuf Nurkic is one of the most dynamic offensive units in the league since the NBA's restart. If the Lakers do play Davis at center with three shooters plus LeBron, that will be Portland's best bet to counter because they can realistically outscore the Lakers with how putrid Los Angeles' shooting has been in Orlando. 

But, the Blazers will be risking foul trouble. On Tuesday, Terry Stotts played only six Trail Blazers for more than 16 minutes and if Game 1 is anything to go by, the Lakers may be getting a favorable whistle due to the superstar aurora of LeBron and Davis. 

With just three realistic wing options to guard LeBron in Carmelo Anthony, Gary Trent Jr, and Mario Hezonja, it could get dicey quickly. Perhaps Wenyen Gabriel could assist a bit if needed and when Zach Collins comes back, can do his best to force LeBron into jump shots by playing off of him. 

 

Also, the Lakers can try giving Kyle Kuzma, arguably their third-best offensive player, more run down the stretch and maybe even start him. He was one of the few Lakers that could hit shots in their 37-point second half but was benched after helping Los Angeles get a six-point lead in the final period. 

Will the Lakers make any offensive adjustments? We'll find out in Game 2 on Thursday, August 20 at 6:00 p.m. (PT) here on NBC Sports NW.