The third quarter has been a problem for the Trail Blazers all season and it was again Saturday night in Portland’s 116-108 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
But the fourth quarter, when there was still a chance to win the game and take a 2-1 lead in the series, was even worse. The Trail Blazers couldn’t make shots. Portland held the Lakers to 23 points in the last quarter, their lowest period of the game, but the Blazers managed only 22.
And looked woefully tired.
Carmelo Anthony, Jusuf Nurkic, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum played the entire quarter and by the end of it appeared exhausted. And it showed in their shooting.
The Blazers made only 8 of 24 shots from the field and just one of their seven three-point shots in the period.
Fatigue? Great Laker defense? Poor Portland offense?
Or all of the above?
“I don’t know if fatigue had anything to do with it, or not,” Stotts said. “We didn’t make shots in the fourth quarter.
“You know, fatigue could have played a part in it. It’s hard to say. Dame came off and had some threes that didn’t go, but I don’t know. I don’t like looking for excuses. We’ll look at the film and see what kind of shots we got, but I don’t know.
“I really can’t say if it’s fatigue or shot selection or what right now.”
Somebody better figure it out soon because the Trail Blazers are getting trampled in the paint and the Lakers are getting a huge advantage in free throws. If Portland can’t make shots -- particularly from long range, it’s going to be extremely difficult to win. At halftime, Portland was 8-8 from the line and Los Angeles was 18-31.
“As far as the free-throw differential, particularly at halftime, I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a game where it was that big,” Stotts said. “It certainly had an impact on the first half. The difference was 23, I think, so that had an impact on the game.”
It wasn’t entirely unexpected, of course. LeBron James has always gotten his share of calls and so have the Lakers. That’s just the way it is, for whatever reason you want to assign to it.
The Blazers were very fortunate that Los Angeles missed so many of them.
Portland led most of the first half but gave up 40 points in the third quarter and then, even then, with a chance to win, couldn’t get anything to go down in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the Lakers outscored Portland by 10 points at the foul line and six on second-chance points. The Blazers made 12 of their 35 three-point attempts and 39-95 shots overall.
Lillard, who showed no sign of his dislocated left index finger causing him undue trouble, had 34 points and McCollum 28 but they were a combined 6-20 from the field in the second half.
James had 31 to lead the Lakers, who shot 50 percent from the field.
And most of those numbers in the last two paragraphs don’t add up to a promising Portland future in the series.
Anthony, who had a nice scoring run in the third quarter and ended the game with 20 points, talked afterward about the team getting together tomorrow and making some adjustments.
Shooting adjustments might be the best idea: Better shots or better accuracy. Or fresher shooters.
Take your pick.