Home @ Matthew Knight Arena Eugene, OR2020 January 26th at 2:00pm
Home @ Smoothie King Center New Orleans, LA2020 January 26th at 3:00pm
The first losing streak of the Lakers’ season ended Saturday night.
It ended with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope threes, Kyle Kuzma eurosteps, LeBron James no-look passes and Anthony Davis dunks and blocks.
The Trail Blazers fought valiantly, with 31 points from Damian Lillard and 19 points from Hassan Whiteside, but ultimately dropped their third consecutive game.
Kuzma led the Lakers for a second game in a row. He scored 24 points by making nine of 17 shots, while Davis scored 20 and James added 21 with 16 assists, tying his season high. Caldwell-Pope scored all 13 of his points in the second half, when he made all three three-pointers he attempted.
With the win, the Lakers improved to 25-7 and will play the Dallas Mavericks at home on Sunday.
Davis all but predicted the win before shoot-around Saturday morning.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll come out victorious in this game because of the way film session went yesterday and practice,” Davis said then. “It was a good one.”
He said the Lakers rediscovered their competitive spirit.
They entered that Friday’s film session having lost four games in a row. Lakers coach Frank Vogel told his players he was edgy and angry, and he felt that energy from them too. That intensity continued into practice on a day when the season’s first bit of drama swirled.
Kuzma’s trainer, Clint Parks, had posted some messages on Instagram that were critical of LeBron James in comparison to Kawhi Leonard, whom Parks also trained. Social media buzzed with suggestions of a rift between the two. Kuzma approached James on Friday to distance himself from the comments.
“I just told him that I can’t control what another man says,” Kuzma said. “Obviously I don’t feel that way. Everybody knows that me and LeBron have a great relationship and left it at that.”
Said James of Parks: “I’ve never met the guy, I don’t know the guy, I could care less about the guy. Whatever the case may be. I wish him the best.”
Kuzma said multiple times Saturday morning that he didn’t care about the social media chatter about the incident. On Saturday night, he produced a dominant first half.
Almost as soon as Kuzma checked into the game, James passed him the ball. Kuzma gave it right back to James, who then made the Lakers’ only three-pointer of the first quarter.
The Lakers controlled most of the second quarter and took a five-point lead into halftime.
Midway through the third, Portland went on an 11-0 run to take an 86-85 lead with 5:15 left in the quarter. Toward the end of that run, Davis was gathering the ball for a dunk when Kent Bazemore stripped him of the ball. Bazemore made contact with Davis’ arm and the Lakers star stood under the basket grabbing his right shoulder, which had been injured in the past.
The Lakers took a timeout. When they came out of it, they finally broke their drought with a jumper from James.
With 8:38 left, James blocked a shot by Anfernee Simons at the rim, and moments later Kuzma used a eurostep to score and stretch the Lakers’ lead to 109-101. Caldwell-Pope would later make a pair of corner threes to help extend the lead to double digits each time.
From there the Lakers controlled the game. James left with 25 seconds remaining, to a standing ovation from the Laker fans in the Moda Center.