Trail Blazers, Lakers meet for 3rd time
They’ll meet for a third time this season on Wednesday at Staples Center, and both teams have elevated their play since they last met.
The Lakers (7-6) have won three in a row to get them over .500 for the first time this season.
Portland (10-3) has won four in a row since a 114-110 loss to the visiting Lakers on Nov. 3, its only defeat on a six-game homestand that culminated with a 100-94 win against the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
It was the first win of the season by eight points or fewer for the Trail Blazers, who lost their only other two games decided by eight points or less.
“You’ve got to win close games in this league,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters afterward. “I think a lot of times, winning close games over the course of your season, makes the difference of how you look back on your season.”
The Lakers have plenty of experience in close games this season.
Seven of their 13 games have been decided by four points or less, including six of the past eight.
Los Angeles defeated the visiting Atlanta Hawks 107-106 on Sunday night after LeBron James dunked an offensive rebound for a one-point lead with 15 seconds left, and newly acquired center Tyler Chandler blocked a driving layup by Atlanta rookie point guard Trae Young to preserve the win.
James has been the leading scorer in both meetings against Portland this season.
He had 26 points and his season high of 12 rebounds in a 128-119 loss at Portland in the season opener on Oct. 18.
The Lakers had switched to a bigger starting lineup when Portland and Los Angeles met the second time. Lonzo Ball had replaced Rajon Rondo as the starting point guard, and stretch forward Kyle Kuzma replaced shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
James scored 28 points and Rondo had 17 off the bench in the win in Portland earlier this month, snapping a 16-game losing streak against the Trail Blazers.
James, who left the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer to sign a four-year, $153.3 million deal with the Lakers, told Yahoo Sports that he’s getting more comfortable in his situation after leading the Cavaliers and Miami Heat to the NBA Finals each of the past eight seasons.
“This process has been good for me,” James said. “I just have to continue being patient.”
Lillard logged his first double-double of the season against Boston, posting 19 points and 12 assists. He appeared to tweak his knee about four minutes into the game, but continued to play.
He was reportedly limping in the locker room after the game, but told reporters he didn’t expect to miss any games.
“If I would have come down and my leg would have went to the side immediately, I think it would have been a lot worse, but I kind of caught it,” he said. “I landed flat on my foot and then kind of just crumbled a little bit. It was painful. I got up. I had to run it off to make sure it wasn’t nothing crazy.”