Oh, it is ON now in Orlando. Make no mistake about that.
The Trail Blazers marched into the first round of the playoffs and outlasted the Western Conference’s top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers 100-93 Tuesday night.
Portland, which finished 181/2 games behind the Lakers in the regular season standings, took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
And the Blazers won in spite of shooting just 39.2 percent from the field, giving up 20 points on 16 turnovers and missing 21 three-point shots.
This from a team that’s been living off its offense, particularly its three-point shooting. But the Lakers couldn’t muster much of any offense outside the paint. Los Angeles made only 5 of its 32 three-pointers and shot 35.1 percent overall.
‘Obviously, tonight the three-point line made a difference,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “But I liked our physicality, defensively. We played the big lineup (centers Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside together) a lot and I thought that worked well for us.
“We were really locked in on taking away some of the things we talked about pregame.”
The Trail Blazers led by 16 in the first quarter, but just one at the half. They survived the dreaded third quarter by outscoring the Lakers by two, but then ran into a Los Angeles hot streak in the final period.
The Lakers rattled off an 11-0 run to take a six-point lead with seven minutes to play, but Portland didn’t blink.
The Trail Blazers finished off the game by scoring 19 of the night’s final 25 points.
“They made their run,” Damian Lillard said. “It’s a game of runs. When it got down the stretch, we just kept working. We made the plays on both ends and were able to pull out a win.”
And after some rough shooting by everyone not named Lillard, a lot of players chipped in down the stretch -- as has been the case in the bubble.
Gary Trent Jr., Carmelo Anthony and CJ McCollum nailed threes, Whiteside scored and blocked shots. And of course, Lillard was Lillard.
The Lakers were left to lament all those missed threes.
“We had good looks,” LeBron James said. “Gotta make ‘em.”
Lillard, who led all scorers with 34 points, made it clear that he was proud of his team’s performance.
“I thought it was a great effort by our team,” he said. “From the start of the game, I thought we came out with the energy and focus we needed against the best team in the league.
“We defended, we played together and I thought we shared the ball.
Coach Terry Stotts seemed to enjoy the idea of winning a game without having to make a high percentage of shots.
“Anytime you can win a game shooting under 40 percent, that means you grinded it out,” he said. “It was a difficult kind of game. You had to fight through some adversity, especially when you do count on your offense, And to win those types of games ... because they are that much more difficult to win."
But as Lillard -- who advised his team not to celebrate the win on the court afterward -- cautioned, it’s just one win and three more are needed to get past the Lakers.
“We know it’s only going to get harder from here,” he said. “It’s only one game.”
But it was just what the Trail Blazers needed. It put them ahead in the series and established they can play with the West’s top seed -- even on a poor shooting night, When you can win without your best game, you know this is legit.
This thing is ON.