Damian Lillard Outduels LeBron James as Blazers Beat Lakers

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The Portland Trail Blazers beat the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers 115-107 on Monday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Portland put the clamps on Los Angeles in the fourth quarter, holding L. A. to 22 points over the final 12 minutes.

Gary Trent Jr. came off the bench to play a starring role, hitting seven three-pointers. Enes Kanter and Jusuf Nurkic also combined for 26 rebounds to give Portland a slight edge on the boards. And while he struggled from the floor, CJ McCollum finished with a double-double (20 points, 11 assists).

This is shaping up to be an odd season, with the Lakers losing one day after the Los Angeles Clippers suffered a 51-point defeat at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers entered Monday night with the NBA’s best record (3-0).

Nobody will be panicking about the Lakers, but they could fall victim to more twists and turns than expected in defense of their title.

LeBron James, SF, Lakers: 29 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block

Dennis Schroder, PG, Lakers: 24 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal

Damian Lillard, PG, Blazers: 31 points, five assists, four rebounds, one block

The Lakers experienced Dame Time firsthand in last year’s playoffs. The conference semifinals also demonstrated how Damian Lillard’s one-man show isn’t enough to overcome an elite opponent in a seven-game playoff series.

Getting big games from supporting players such as Trent is how the Blazers get to the next level without adding another star. His 16 first-half points were instrumental in wresting the lead away from Los Angeles.

Trent was largely anonymous in the third quarter before exploding again in the fourth.

Trent made way for Lillard with 7:14 left in the game as the Blazers were up 96-91. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Lakers tied things up within two minutes.

You obviously want Lillard on the floor for the final stretch, but Portland lost its hottest scorer. Portland’s offense skidded for a bit before a pair of threes from Lillard and McCollum provided some breathing room inside the last four minutes.

To continue fighting back and eventually pull away speaks to what could be a different Blazers team from years past. This wasn’t a great performance from Portland, and it still earned a hard-fought road victory.

Los Angeles built an early 13-point lead in the first quarter before Portland chipped away at the deficit and eventually jumped ahead 58-54 at halftime.

Lillard connected on a three-pointer to start the third quarter, but the Lakers responded with 15 straight points to once again take control. L. A. didn’t enjoy the position for long as Portland embarked on another offensive run.

Every time you thought you had a bearing on things, another surprise was in store.

The Lakers were on the second half of a back-to-back and playing their third game in four days. The way in which they wilted in the fourth might indicate a level of fatigue that had set in.

And because he needed to get his offense firing, head coach Frank Vogel opted for a closing lineup that left his team exposed on the defensive end.

The result felt both inevitable and necessary as Vogel figures out his strategy and Los Angeles navigates through the season.

The Lakers start a four-game road trip Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs. The Blazers stay in L. A. for their next game as they play the Clippers on Wednesday in the second leg of their road trip.

This Post was originally published on bleacherreport.com

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