The Trail Blazers split their L.A. series after beating the Lakers Monday night before the Clippers took it to Portland Wednesday, 128-105.
The big difference:
The Blazers defensive performance was consistent Monday night, but was lacking in communication.
Portland found success with their wings in defending the Lakers Monday. Yet, Wednesday was a different story.
Paul George got out in transition and was efficient from deep, while Kawhi Leonard found mid-range success. And then there was Serge Ibaka and Nic Batum making their scoring presences felt. The Clippers put on a scoring clinic, especially from three.
And really -- L.A. took care of business on both ends.
But, another factor that was missing in Wednesday’s game was the energy from third-year player Gary Trent Jr., who was out dealing with a right calf strain.
He’s become known as the Blazers’ spark plug.
Portland’s second unit didn’t seem to have that extra spunk Wednesday. Carmelo Anthony did have it going on offense off the bench after missing Monday’s game due to Health and Safety Protocols.
But, in Monday’s win for the Blazers, it was Trent Jr. who brought instant offense and extra energy when the Lakers went on a first half run,
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Damian Lillard discussed how GTJ was missed.
“Anytime somebody in our rotation goes down we miss him,” Lillard stated.
The Clippers shot 65 percent from three (14-of-21) through the first two quarters, while Portland gave up 76 points in the first half, which is the most points that L.A. has scored in a half so far in this young season.
And no, it’s not as if GTJ was the missing piece Wednesday.
But his aggressiveness and activity definitely could’ve helped close the gap. Not to mention, after scoring 28-points against the Lakers, that momentum could’ve possibly continued as Lillard mentioned.
But Portland knows they have to have other role players step up when one goes out with an injury.
But again, Wednesday’s loss goes back to the Blazers still needing to find themselves, particularly on the defensive end, as Lillard noted postgame. He also made sure to mention that they have plenty more to figure out than just filling in that role.
Now just as several teams around the league continue to work on themselves after a shortened offseason and training camp, the Blazers will have a day to go over film and prepare for their New Year’s Day battle against the Golden State Warriors.