By Irvin Garduno, Contributing Writer/Lakers Corespondent
Lakers playoff basketball has not been a familiar scene in the last seven years and the teams stars have changed astronomically since then. The playoff debut in a Laker uniform for the All-Star duo, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, were not able to match the consistency and was spoiled by Bubble MVP, Damian Lillard and his Portland Trail Blazers. The 8 seeded Trail Blazers defeated the number one seed Los Angles Lakers of a score of 100 – 93. Portland got off to a great lead in the first quarter with Lillard and Nurkic leading the aggressive offense that gave Portland an early eleven point lead 36-25.
It was evident the Lakers shooting performance was not up to par by the second quarter when Los Angeles started trailing by a deficit game high 16 points. Alex Caruso was able to boost the momentum to their favor after he took the inside screen from James to complete a thunderous slam at the end of the first quarter. The momentum led James to facilitate and score in the Lakers 13-1 run, giving Los Angeles the right enthusiasm they are lacking from not having 20,000 fans in the stands. Whistles were not shy in the half. A total of 32 foul calls were called by the end of the opening half. Foul calls had both teams playing on the edge early. The Lakers tightened the advantage by outscoring Portland by 10 to a score of 57- 56 at the end of this first half.
The battle of the second half was a battle of runs. Lead changes kept game one a true playoff competition. Trailing 78-75 going in the 4th, Kyle Kuzma tied it at 78 with a contested 3 pointer. James received a deflection to make an athletic lay up the play after. Kuzma was able to get to the line to knock down 2 free throws and have the lead 84–78.
At 6 minutes left in the game Dame Time’s alarm went off. Lillard’s long shot 3-pointer tied the game at 87 with 5:46 to play and the stealthy back court mate CJ McCollum sunk in a floater to give Portland a one possession lead.
Lillard made another head scratching 3 to keep Dame Time running. Gary Trent was able to assist with another 3 pointer the possession after to put Portland up 98-93 before Nurkic was able to get an uncontested dunk to dismiss the game and send the upset 1 seed back to the locker room.
James ended the game with his 24th postseason triple double of 23 points, 17 rebounds, and a playoff career high of 15 assists. Although of his triple double, James was not shooting the 3 ball well nor his team. Los Angeles went 5 for 32 behind the arch an unprecedented 15%. “We did well but just not shoot well,” James said in an unbothered manner. “No frustration, we have another opportunity.”
Lillard ended his underdog win with 34 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. James was asked on Lillard’s shooting performance. “He takes big shots and makes big shots” James said. Lillard made 6 of his 13 3-point attempts. Lillard ended the night confidently saying, “I’m not concerned about our mentality going forward because I know my team. I know who we are, I know guys personalities, and I know the leaders of our team.”
Game 2 of the series will be Thursday, August 20 at 6:00pm.
Davis 28, James 23, Kuzma 14, Green 10, McGee 6, Morris 5, Howard 4, Caruso 2, Pope 1.
Lillard 34, McCollum 21, Nurkic 16, Anthony 11, Whiteside 7, Trent 5, Gabriel 4, Adams 2