One of the goals this season for the Portland Trail Blazers was to improve as a team, which meant a better bench and obviously making the playoffs. Despite offseason changes and the postseason they’ll finally be back to, they’re still overly dependent on Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, which isn’t such a bad thing against bad teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, coming away with the 124-112 win.
The Blazers most likely won’t have home court advantage in the first round of the postseason, but maybe things will change if the Rockets continue to slide and slip due to injuries and simply playing bad. With the win over the Lakers, they improve to 49-27, 10 games behind the Spurs at the top of the West but only 1.5 games behind the Rockets at 4th. At 27-9 at home this season, getting home court against the Rockets will be crucial.
Lillard seemed to be in some sort of duel with Nick Young, as the Lakers haters-ball leader actually won the individual battle with 40 points. However, the Lakers combination of bad defense and playing offense through one guy most of the time didn’t work out, as Lillard finished with 34 points including five three pointers while Aldridge, feeling very comfortable after the missed time he had added 31 points with 15 rebounds and 6 assists, as the Blazers played great while their starting lineup was on the floor.
Nicolas Batum had 16 points, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and both Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews added 10 points each. But the bench? Will Barton, Mo Williams and Thomas Robinson were the only players who scored, combining for 23 points. Meyers Leonard was ejected two minutes after coming in with a flagrant foul in the final 40 seconds on Kendall Marshall. It’s great to have a superb starting five, but not having anyone to support them will mean a short postseason for a team that’s a lot of fun to watch.
As always with the Lakers, the starting lineup looked very bad while the redemption came from the bench and especially Young who scored a season high 40, including making his first eight field goal attempts. He missed his career high by 3 points, and also set a new high for points off the bench this season, surpassing the 37 by Jamal Crawford. He was actually the fifth and last player the Lakers got involved in the game.
Other than that, there wasn’t much else. Pau Gasol had a weak outing once more, and Steve Nash had moments of greatness flashes but overall he continues to look like someone who doesn’t have much of a career left, with the Lakers or generally in the NBA. Kent Bazemore scored 17 points and Chris Kaman added 12, but the Lakers are well on their way towards a 50-loss season which hasn’t happened to them in 40 years.
The Blazers are headed in a different direction. A franchise that needed time to recover from the hits it took through a great draft pick, an All-Star forward and filling the other spots with suitable players. It’s good enough for a fine regular season and some fun basketball, but they’ll need more from the rest of the guys if this is a team that is going to become a consistent playoff member, not to mention a team no one really wants to face.