Blazers view game with Lakers as possible turning point (Jan 25, 2017)

BY AP • January 24, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland Trail Blazers are hoping one game can turn around their season.

The Los Angeles Lakers are hoping one game won't define theirs.

The Trail Blazers (19-27) play host to the Lakers (16-32) in a matchup of teams that had very different results the last time out.

Portland knocked off Boston 127-123 in overtime last Saturday to end a four-game losing streak and finish a four-game road trip in winning fashion. The Blazers had won only six of their previous 23 games.

"I'm really proud of our team," Portland coach Terry Stotts told the media afterward. "It's a game that hopefully we can build on. We've had a tough stretch. This was something we needed. It was very welcome."

Portland got big contributions from several players, including CJ McCollum (26 of his 35 points in the first half), Damian Lillard (28 points and seven assists) and Mason Plumlee (10 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists).

But the Blazers were ecstatic over the performance of reserve forward Meyers Leonard, who didn't play in the previous game, a Friday night loss at Philadelphia. Against the Celtics, the 7-foot Leonard scored 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field -- 4 of 4 from 3-point range -- and had two resounding first-half dunks.

"Those are energy plays -- game-changing plays," Lillard said. "We know he cares, and then we're able to be excited and show that we care. When you have that type of impact from Meyers in a game that meant this much to us, it's huge."

The Blazers rallied from a poor start last season to finish 44-38 and claim the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They're hoping for a similar situation this season.

"Things get bad sometimes in an NBA season," Lillard said. "It's a long season, and we've had it pretty bad. Sometimes it goes that way, and then it just clicks. Sometimes you have to go through it and it just turns and you figure it out."

The Lakers will come to Portland off a 122-73 undressing at Dallas on Sunday -- the most one-sided loss in franchise history.

"We didn't show up to play," Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters. "It's embarrassing for us as a team, an organization, for our fans. The effort wasn't there.

"I love our group of guys. I know we're going to bring it the next game. That's not who we are, but it's frustrating what happened."

After a 108-96 win over Indiana on Friday, Walton felt his players relaxed.

"In this league, if you win one game, you gotta let that go by the next morning," the Lakers' first-year coach said. "You have to be ready to start over, refocus and bring that same type of energy level again the next game. We haven't figured that out as a group yet.

"We're headed in the right direction. We're going to get to where we need to go, and I'm excited about it. This was just a bad game, one that causes pain. You just it to motivate you and go on."

The Lakers must do it without guard D'Angelo Russell, who is expected to miss one to two weeks with an MCL knee strain and calf strain. The Blazers have won 10 straight games against the Lakers dating to April 2014.



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