The Los Angeles Lakers got back to .500 with a 134-110 rout of the Portland Trail Blazers at Crypto.com Arena on Sunday night. Lakers guards D’Angelo Russell and LeBron James dominated the game, combining for 68 points on 25-of-37 shooting as LA pulled away in the second half.
Russell Continues Hot Streak
Russell led the Lakers with 34 points while shooting 13-of-18 from the field and 6-of-8 from three-point range. He also added 5 rebounds and 8 assists with only 1 turnover. Russell has now scored 30+ points in three straight games, boosting his trade value as the February 9th deadline approaches.
“D’Angelo was tremendous tonight,” James said. “He’s been playing at an extremely high level and it’s been fun to watch him the last few games.”
The Lakers acquired Russell in the offseason from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for a lightly-protected first round pick. With Russell set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, LA has a decision to make on whether to re-sign him long-term or deal him at the deadline for future assets. His recent hot streak could compel them to keep Russell in the fold alongside James and Anthony Davis.
James Dominates Late
While Russell carried the Lakers early, James took over late. He scored 16 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter as LA blew the game wide open. James shot 12-of-19 overall and repeatedly got to the rim against a Trail Blazers defense missing center Jusuf Nurkic.
“I just wanted to be aggressive,” James said. “We had it going offensively and I wanted to keep attacking.”
At 39 years old, James continues to perform at an MVP level while leading the league in scoring. He wasn’t named an All-Star starter for the first time since 2004, but made it clear he still has plenty left in the tank to carry the Lakers towards playoff contention in the second half.
LA Pulls Away Late
The game was close through the the first half and midway through the third quarter. But a 21-8 run to end the third blew it open in LA’s favor. Russell scored 10 points over the final 2:40 of the quarter, knocking down a pair of three-pointers.
James and Russell then combined for 23 points in the fourth as the Lakers lead ballooned to 27 points. It was a dominant two-man performance that Portland had no answer for.
Blazers Struggle Defensively Minus Nurkic
The Trail Blazers were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and clearly missed having defensive anchor Jusuf Nurkic to slow down James and Russell. Nurkic missed the game due to a calf strain. Portland allowed LA to shoot 55.6% from the field and 43.5% from three-point range.
|Lakers vs Trail Blazers Box Score
Grant led the Blazers with 27 points while Simons added 25 points and 9 assists. But the lack of consistent secondary scoring and poor team defense spelled doom for Portland. Head coach Chauncey Billups bemoaned his team’s defensive effort and lack of physicality in his postgame comments.
“We didn’t come ready to play,” Billups said. “We weren’t physical, we didn’t communicate. We pretty much gave them everything they wanted. You’re not going to win many games giving up 134 points.”
What It Means
The win moved the Lakers back to 23-23 on the year. More importantly, it gave them positive momentum heading into a pivotal 7-game homestand. Meanwhile, the loss was the third straight for Portland who fell to 19-26.
The Trail Blazers now sit 12th in the West. If the current standings held, they would miss the play-in tournament altogether after making the playoffs last season. The Lakers currently sit 7th in the play-in picture as James and Russell look to carry them to the postseason.
This likely isn’t the last meeting between these two teams this season. Whether LA decides to keep or trade Russell, health permitting, they appear on track to compete for a play-in spot. Portland’s underwhelming defense makes them vulnerable to dropping further down the standings if they can’t string together wins coming out of the All-Star break.
After being the latest team unable to slow down James and Russell, the Trail Blazers next face the red-hot Sacramento Kings who have won seven straight games. The Lakers look to keep rolling at home against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies on January 24th.
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