The Los Angeles Lakers have advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals in five games against the Portland Trail Blazers. This was an impressive series by the Los Angeles Lakers against the Portland Trail Blazers. Yes, the Trail Blazers have serious flaws in their team. However, the Trail Blazers has star players that few eighth seeds ever had in the NBA playoffs.
Los Angeles vs. Portland Trail Blazers Recap
The Surprising Absence of the Portland Trail Blazers’ Offence
Surprisingly, the Trail Blazers did not play well offensively. This was something the Trail Blazers were expected to excel at. According to stats.nba.com, the Trail Blazers were at the bottom half in points per game. This happened even with their key players producing. Jusuf Nurkić averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.
CJ McCollum averaged 23.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. This is while Damian Lillard averaged 24.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. Lastly, Carmelo Anthony averaged 15.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 steal per game. Lillard played exceptionally well in game one having 34 points, five rebounds, and five assists.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) August 19, 2020
However, when looking carefully, even some of these players underperformed. Lillard tied for the personal worst in terms of field goal percentage in the NBA playoffs with a 40.6 percentage. Anthony also did not shoot efficiently with a 41.2 field goal percentage. McCollum also shot only 68.2 percent from the free-throw line. For McCollum, this was his worst free-throw percentage in the NBA playoffs.
Furthermore, none of the other players produced much for the Trail Blazers. As a result, the Trail Blazers lost the series in five games. Yes, the injury Lillard suffered according to Mark Medina of USA Today during game four played a part. However, by that time the Trail Blazers were already losing the series.
Portland Trail Blazers’ Best Offensive Players Were Also their Worst Defensive Players
Yes, the Trail Blazers defense has been terrible all season. However, the Lakers’ offense was not producing at the bubble during the regular season. It looked like the Lakers though found their offense against the Trail Blazers. They were ranked fifth in offense in the NBA playoffs. The Trail Blazers gave up only 93 points in the first.
However, that could have been because of the poor performance of Lakers’ player Anthony Davis. After game one, the Lakers took control. The Lakers scored 111 and 118 points in the last two games. Furthermore, the Trail Blazers gave up 135 points in game four and 131 points in game five. No matter how good the Trail Blazers offense is, they were not going to win games four and five giving up so many points.
According to stats.nba.com, a lot of Trail Blazers players had a bad defensive rating in the NBA playoff series against the Lakers. Most notably, it is the same players who provide the offensive for the Trail Blazers. Nurkić had the worst defensive rating for the Trail Blazers. This was followed by Anthony, McCollum, and also Lillard, who also had a bad defensive rating.
Three Key Players of the Game – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Lakers Offense
LeBron James was probably the best player in the series. He averaged 27.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 10.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. James averaged a triple-double throughout the entire series, which is an extremely hard thing to accomplish. He also shot 60.0 field-goal percentage and 46.4 from the three-point line.
James had two triple-doubles and two double-doubles against the Trail Blazers. This included 38 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, and two steals in game three against the Trail Blazers. It also helps that he has playoff experience, which must have helped Davis, who struggled in game one.
“Playoff basketball is no mistakes. When you make mistakes, teams make you pay for it." – @KingJames
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 14, 2020
With the Trail Blazers’ lackluster defense there were going to be opportunities to score for the Lakers. They did not get off a good start losing the first game 100-93. Davis struggled in his first game. Although he had 28 points and 11 rebounds, he had only a 33.3 field goal percentage. However, he would fix that in the rest of the series shooting a field goal percentage above 60.0 percent for the rest of the series.
Davis played an instrumental role in the Lakers’ closeout game. In that game, he had 43 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. Most impressive though was his field goal percentage which was 77.8 percent in game five.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 30, 2020
Davis ended up averaging 29.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game. His field goal percentage was 57.3 percent in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
The Lakers got some offensive help with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He provided that help against the Trail Blazers. He averaged 11.2 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He only had a 38 percent field goal percentage but had an impressive 40.6 three-point shooting percentage against the Lakers.
Los Angeles Lakers’ Defense
Defensively, Alex Caruso was the player of the series according to stats.nba.com. He had a defensive rating of 90.9. This is the highest defensive rating of both teams. He also had the most steals in the series with 1.6 steals per game.
This perfectly defines Alex Caruso. Putting in that extra bit of effort to force the error and earn another possession, that paid off.
— Lakers UK (@lalakersuk) August 31, 2020
Kyle Kuzma was second for the Lakers with a defensive rating of 94.2 and Davis was third with a 96.2 rating. As mentioned previously Davis had 1.4 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game, which played a key role in the Lakers series win against the Trail Blazers.
Up Next for the Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers will advance to the Western Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2012. A combination of great offense along with great defense helped the Lakers achieve victory.
They will face the winner of the Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder series. Both the Thunder and the Rockets are good teams. The Rockets are a star-studded team with two former NBA Most Valuable Player Award winners in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. This is while the Thunder have a 10 time NBA All-Star in Chris Paul and a rising star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
For the Trail Blazers, this is the end of their postseason. They surprisingly had a hard time scoring the basket. This is despite Lillard, McCollum, Nurkić, and Anthony playing well offensively. However, more concerning was that those four players that provided the offense were the Trail Blazers’ worst defenders. As a result, the Los Angeles Lakers take the series over the Portland Trail Blazers in five games.
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