In a game of runs, the Lakers had one more in them than Portland, coming out victorious over the Trail Blazers in a 121-112 victory on Sunday. Led by LeBron James’ 37-point performance and a bounce-back game from Thomas Bryant — who managed another double-double with a career-high 31 points and 14 rebounds — the Lakers won a crucial game against the Blazers to move ahead of them in the standings and improve to 22-25 on the season.
The Lakers have now won their second game in a row, sitting a game-and-a-half out of the play-in while they anxiously await the return of Anthony Davis.
The Lakers couldn’t have had a better start; James started with an emphatic dunk and back-to-back threes, and they were up 18-2 just like that. With that second 3-pointer, LeBron passed Byron Scott for fourth place on the Lakers’ all-time list of triples made in franchise history.
Another one in the record books pic.twitter.com/meH3D5Fxev— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 23, 2023
Of course, the game was not done after the first half of the opening quarter. Portland settled down and dominated the paint, outscoring the purple and gold 14-10 and the Lakers held a seven-point advantage after the first.
The rest of the first half was all Portland, however, as they took control of the game. Momentum is hard to narrow down and quantify, but it certainly felt like the tides turned when the Blazers took the lead and professional irritant Patrick Beverley started jawing at Damian Lillard during a free-throw attempt. That led to a technical foul, and Portland went on a 16-4 run afterward. After a couple of vintage Dame threes from 40-plus feet out, the Blazers didn’t just have the momentum; they had a commanding 71-46 lead.
And with the Lakers being one of the league’s worst in the third quarter, this game being a loss was a foregone conclusion, right? Wrong. Last year’s Lakers would have folded like a cheap plastic chair from Ikea if down by double digits, but Darvin Ham’s Lakers have a never-say-die attitude. They came out blazing (pun intended) to start the third as LeBron drove to the basket unbothered throughout the quarter and the Lakers outscored Portland 40-20 in the third and shrunk the deficit down to five entering the fourth.
Pat Bev — who has struggled in his first season as a Laker — stepped up in the second half and was a huge part of the rally. His stat line of 4 points 2 rebounds and 2 assists are nothing to brag about, but his hustle plays, hockey assists and his ability to disrupt (and troll) Dame and Portland was evident in the second half. He also ended the night with a plus-minus of +27, best of anyone on the team.
Entering the final frame, Lakers broadcaster Stu Lantz said the opening five minutes would be crucial. Indeed they were, as the Lakers and Blazers exchanged baskets and the Lakers took a two-point advantage following a Bryant seven-foot jumper. L.A. continued to apply pressure and after Pat Bev forced a turnover and a Dennis Schröder three, Lakers took a five-point advantage and finally had control of the game.
Bryant had back-to-back dunks that took the air out of the arena and ensured this wouldn’t be another fake Lakers comeback, but instead a second win in a row and their first in Portland since 2019.
As the final cherry on this Sunday when Pat Bev was subbed out of the game he let everyone know Dame Time was over.
The Lakers are stretched too thin. Part of that is management’s fault for roster construction, and part of that is injuries. With Lonnie Walker IV, Austin Reaves and AD out; the Lakers are missing three of their best players, including arguably their best in Davis. That is not sustainable. They’ve treaded water for weeks and kept themselves in the mix in a mediocre west, but how much longer can that last?
They need reinforcements and with AD rumored to be returning in a week, it gives the Lakers hope that they can make a run. AD might be on the way, but they’ll likely have to go on without him in their upcoming game against the Clippers on Tuesday on TNT, a matchup I’m sure Charles Barkley is very much looking forward to.