Trail Blazers look to extend winning streak over Lakers
LOS ANGELES — The Portland Trail Blazers will try to extend their winning streak against the Los Angeles Lakers to 14 games when they meet Saturday night at Staples Center.
The Trail Blazers will likely have to extend the winning streak without leading scorer Damian Lillard, who strained his hamstring against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday and missed the 102-85 loss to the visiting Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
Portland (16-16) has lost three in a row and is on the brink of falling under .500 for the first time this season.
“I think we just need to play smarter,” Portland center Jusuf Nurkic told the Oregonian after the loss to Denver. “Sometimes we do great and sometimes we do bad. We just need to be more consistent in whatever we do. Offense, defense, right now we struggle at both ends.”
Lillard is averaging 25.2 points this season, eighth best in the NBA, and has played particularly well against the Lakers in his career. He’s averaging 25.9 points and 6.9 assists in 19 career games against Los Angeles, and has scored at least 20 in the past nine meetings.
Lillard scored 32 against the visiting Lakers on Nov. 2, the last on a 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds to lift Portland to a 113-110 victory.
Portland coach Terry Stotts elected to start small forward Jake Layman against the Nuggets. Layman, who came into the game last on the Trail Blazers in minutes (6.4) and scoring (1.7), played six scoreless minutes before point guard Shabazz Napier started the second half and finished with 14 points, five assists and no turnovers in 37 minutes.
The Trail Blazers needed second-leading scorer C.J. McCollum to pick up the scoring slack, but he finished with 15 points on 7-for-18 shooting, six points below his season average. He’s 12 for 40 from the field in the past two games, including 1 for 12 from 3-point range.
“In this league, if someone’s not here, the next man steps up,” Nurkic said.
The Lakers (11-19) open a four-game homestand after playing nine of the past 12 on the road.
The Lakers couldn’t build on their 122-116 victory at the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, nor their two overtime losses to the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center in the past month, losing 113-106 at Golden State on Friday night.
Los Angeles rallied to take an 89-88 lead with 7:43 remaining, but couldn’t stay with the defending NBA champions down the stretch.
“Portland does a lot of the same stuff (as Golden State),” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “We’re going to keep grinding until those mistakes don’t happen anymore.”
The Lakers have been getting excellent play lately from rookies Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball.
Kuzma had 27 points and 14 rebounds on Friday to become the first Lakers rookie to score at least 25 in three straight games since Jerry West 56 years ago.
Walton has seen a noticeable change in Kuzma’s game of late.
“There’s a couple times I see him getting ready to take a quick shot, and instead he’s driving and playmaking for someone else, which he wasn’t doing earlier in the season,” Walton said.
Ball scored 24 points on 9 for 16 shooting and 5 for 6 from 3-point range on Friday. He’s averaging 17.2 points over the past five games.
Los Angeles hasn’t defeated the Trail Blazers since March 3, 2014, a 107-106 victory in Portland that featured none of the current Lakers. Portland has won seven in a row against the Lakers at Staples Center since its last loss on Feb. 22, 2013.
Portland saw its nine-game home-winning streak against the Nuggets halted on Friday night.