After a seven year hiatus from the NBA playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers suffered a tough loss in game one against the Portland Trail Blazers. The story of the game was their terrible shooting from both outside the arc and inside it, but the Lakers actually had an opportunity to steal the game, taking a six point lead with about eight minutes to go before unraveling and eventually losing by seven.
After the game, Lakers guard Danny Green had plenty to say about why the Lakers lost and why fans shouldn’t be worried yet. On top of taking accountability for his own poor shooting (two of eight from 3, four of 12 overall), Green lamented late game mistakes that allowed the Blazers to take the lead and not relinquish it:
Two answers from Danny Green on the Lakers' struggles tonight: pic.twitter.com/9aygUzlA6B
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) August 19, 2020
The most obvious issues were two huge Damian Lillard threes and one from Carmelo Anthony that LeBron James also called “defensive breakdowns.” The Lillard threes were from way deep but on both occasions, the big man guarding the pick and roll did not step up to the level of the screen and allowed the best deep shooter in the league this season to rise up and drill a big shot. The Anthony three was a direct result of defenders scrambling to contain Lillard after the previous breakdowns and letting a great shooter get an open look.
It’s hard to point at the Lakers’ defense as the cause of their loss when they held the red hot Blazers to just 100 points. They did about as good of a job as you can on Lillard for most of the game as the point guard shot just 9/21 from the field but did hit six 3-pointers and 10 free throws to get to 31 points.
But Green is right that the team did not execute well down the stretch and that was on everybody. Frank Vogel subbed out Kyle Kuzma after the forward made several great plays in a row to push the lead to six (their largest of the game) and the Blazers promptly went on an 11-3 run with him off the court. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso each took a wild shot attempt with the game dwindling down rather than finding LeBron or Anthony Davis. The defense broke down and the shots kept missing.
On one hand, it’s promising that the Lakers were almost able to steal the game despite all of these issues arising. On the other hand, the Blazers didn’t have to have a great night offensively to win a game against the top seed. It’s not exactly time to panic yet but there are a lot of issues that the Lakers have to fix quickly in order to get past the Blazers and even moreso to advance past the second round of the playoffs.