Dame Time vs. Lakers propels Trail Blazers to unlikely 3-0 record

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /

As LeBron James’ turn-around jumper at the buzzer fell short, Portland’s bench erupted. The Blazers finished the game on an 11-2 run behind Damian Lillard‘s second straight game with 40+ points. Scoring 28 in the first half, The Portland Trail Blazers have been determined to make sure Lillard is warmed up with a lot of catch-and-shoot opportunities.

He ran off screen after screen, shooting behind the arc eight times in the first half. Damian is averaging 30 in the last eight games against the Lakers. The Oakland native pulled up from 35 feet with 12.4 seconds left, giving Portland the two-point lead after a successful challenge against Patrick Beverley’s flop on a Jusuf Nurkic screen coming down the court.

LeBron was able to tie the game up with a defensive breakdown from Portland with seven seconds left on the clock. A defensive breakdown from Nurk stems from the horrible shooting from the Lakers.

In the third quarter, the Lakers had their best quarter to date. Anthony Davis was everywhere, highlighted by his six blocks along with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists on 52% shooting. They looked very much so like a team that had the wherewithal to compete with feisty defense, good passing, and smart shots.

Damian Lillard takes over when it matters most

Damian Lillard said as he walked in for the final 6:30 of the game, coach Scott Brooks tapped him on his back and told him to take over. That put the battery in his back as he finished the game. Although, the final nail in the coffin came from the biggest offseason addition in Jerami Grant as he drove to the hoop and finished through contact on James and Davis with three seconds left in the game. “I been saying it the last two games, but it’s just trust,” Dame said postgame about his confidence in Grant’s decision.

Something that has been missing in Portland since LaMarcus Aldridge left is a true forward that can get a bucket in the clutch when this Portland team needs one. Grant has shown early that he does not shy away from pressure.

The Trail Blazers’ supporting cast came through

Josh Hart’s +/- was -4 in the game, however, his efficiency on the court and his impact were felt constantly. Any guard that finishes with 16 rebounds (the second-most in his career in a game) knows his role. Two questionable travel calls had him finishing with three turnovers, although the nine points, five assists, and two steals were felt.

Anfernee Simons struggled from the 3-point line and had five turnovers on the day. Justise Winslow came in and played some big minutes with their small ball lineup and had an impactful role. The impromptu point when this team needs someone to slow the game down, Winslow has been there to get the job done, with seven points, five rebounds, and three assists while also racking up a steal and a block.

He was everywhere on both ends of the court and I think Winslow has found the right coach in Chauncey Billups that loves his grit. The second-year coach has continuously put him in favorable positions this year. That is what this year has been all about so far, finding the right matchup and also capitalizing.

Shadeon Sharpe had his first staple moment, catching a perfect lob from Winslow as he skied through the air. He finished the game with four points, four rebounds, a steal, and a block. He continues to get better every game. The more impactful he is on the defensive side the more minutes he will see as this season progresses.

The Blazers finish the first week of the season undefeated with an upcoming game against league two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. Denver is riding a two-game winning streak as Jokic has started the season leading the team in points, rebounds, and assists and is nearly averaging a triple-double early in the season.