It was once unfathomable that the Lakers would go eight years, three months and two days without a playoff win. But that is exactly where the franchise found itself after eight of the darkest years of its existence.
For context as to how long ago it was since the Lakers last won a playoff game, chew on this.
The first Avengers movie was released a week prior to that game. LeBron James hadn’t yet won a NBA Finals. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden were on OKC. The Golden State Warriors were a forgotten about franchise and Steph Curry was just a scrawny kid with bad ankles.
That was exactly how long it had been.
On Thursday night, the Lakers snapped that streak.
The Los Angeles Lakers dominated the Portland Trail Blazers 111-88, recovering from a Game 1 loss with a blowout win. It was a much needed victory, and to do it in dominant fashion was even better.
How it happened
Everything went right for the Lakers. Anthony Davis remembered who he was and dominated the game with 31 points 11 rebounds and three assists. Davis is the first player in Lakers history to record at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in fewer than 30 minutes played. Only five other players have done it in NBA history.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope once again heard the criticism from Laker nation and bounced back, finding his shooting stroke. He dropped 16 points on 5-8 shooting from the field and 4-6 from 3 point range.
And maybe most importantly, the Lakers played some of the best defense they’ve played all season long.
While is was a dominant game for the Lakers, some very peculiar stats jump off the box score.
LeBron James finished the game with just 10 points, on 4-11 shooting. He didn’t even record a double double, let alone match the triple double from Game 1. Would anyone believe the Lakers could win a playoff game where James posted that stat line?
I’m not sure which is more absurd, that or the fact KCP was the second leading scorer in a playoff win.
More than anything, the Lakers played as a team who were embarrassed of their previous performance. They came out with a different energy and focus than they did in Game 1 where they looked sluggish.
Energy and Focus
The Lakers took an early lead and held control over the Trail Blazers through the first quarter. Caldwell-Pope made his first three-pointer of the series with eight minutes to go in the first quarter and immediately followed with another one. The Lakers led by anywhere from six to 11 points for most of the second quarter until a burst before halftime.
At the half the Lakers were up by 17 and ready to put the game out of reach.
Third-quarter starts have been a problem for the Lakers lately, but they corrected that issue, at least for Game 2. They opened the third quarter with a 12-2 run and never looked back.
In a blink of the eye they were up by 23, then 26, then 30. They kept their foot on the Blazers throats until the game was out of reach entering the 4th.
Defense wins championships, oh and playoff games
The defensive effort and focus was the key to the victory. Lillard, McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, and Jusuf Nurkic combined for a total of 42 points. Compare that to Game 1 where that group combined for 82 points.
Lillard wasn’t “Logo Lillard” tonight, nor was it Dame time as he connected on just one of his seven three point attempts.
The Blazers team shot 40% from the field and just 27% from behind the arc, while committing 17 turnovers. They were flustered all night long, never finding the rhythm they’ve had since entering the bubble. It was the first game inside the bubble that the Blazers failed to score 100 points.
An interesting tactic used by the Lakers was to double the guards to end quarters, preventing Lillard and McCollum to explode for a quarter ending burst. Portland failed to adjust and it showed.
New wrinkle added to the Lakers rotation
The entire team got playing time thanks to the blow out victory, but two rotation switches caught my attention.
Frank Vogel tried a new lineup, adding a player he hadn’t played at all in Game 1: JR Smith. Smith got real playing time, 22 minutes of game action. A lot of it was in garbage time, but there was real minutes sprinkled in there. He was on the floor as the lead grew in the second quarter. And thanks to his ever green light shooting mindset, he ended up as the Lakers 3rd leading scorer in the game with 11 points on 12 shots.
Dion Waiters also got playing time, 16 minutes in fact. He didn’t do all that much, but seeing him get game action as a potential threat later in the series was a good sight to see.
With the series tied 1-1, the Lakers know the true series still lies ahead of them. They have to repeat this defensive effort another 3 times. Anthony Davis has to replicate this performance 3 more times. And LeBron James can not score just 10 points again, because the Blazers will likely not shoot this poorly again.
To make it simple, the Lakers know the jobs not finished, its just starting.
1 down, 15 more to go pic.twitter.com/ZmEWirmzLd
— Legendary Lakers (@goldlakerss) August 21, 2020