Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schröder returned the lineup to help the squad defeat the Portland Trailblazers 102-93. Schröder scored 22 points in his return, he worked to keep the Laker’s energy high.
“I try to do my part,” he said. “Bring the energy on the defensive end, play with pace on the offensive end, be aggressive and I think that’s what we did.”
Lakers forward LeBron James made a strong effort on both the offensive and defensive end, scoring 28 points and 11 rebounds. Forward Kyle Kuzma matched James with 11 boards of his own. Portland guard Damian Lillard scored 35 points and center Enes Kanter made 17 rebounds.
The Purple and Gold remain an impeccable stalwart on defense, making nine steals, seven blocks, and 52 rebounds. Presenting a tough offense and defense has been a standard for James throughout his career.
“That’s always been my game, to be able to play both ends of the floor, hold myself accountable and be there for my teammates,” James said; he scored four steals and three blocks in the matchup. “I was able to get some steals, get some blocks, took a couple charges, I’m just trying to be the voice and also act on action as well.”
The Lakers trailed throughout the first quarter as they struggled with their shot and made turnovers. Close-ranged shots kept the reigning NBA Champs in the game, allowing them to either score a bucket or head to the free-throw line. That method, paired with a strong defensive effort, put the Lakers within five points at the end of the first quarter.
Like in several previous contests, the Lakers brought a sound defense. James and guard Alex Caruso forced turnovers. A layup by center Montrezl Harrell would give the Lakers the lead. Lillard successfully fought back with three-pointers. Center Marc Gasol and forward Markieff Morris got in foul trouble as halftime drew near. Double-teaming Lillard was the only effective way to defend him.
“When you’re playing against [Lillard], it’s not just a guy on [Lillard] that’s required to try to slow him down, your bigs have to be active,” said Lakers head coach Frank Vogel. “[James] leads us like a middle linebacker, leads our defense in that regard.”
Portland had a 57-54 lead at the half, going 14-14 in free throws and sinking seven three-pointers. The Lakers had four steals and six blocks at this point.
The reigning NBA champions came out strong on both ends after intermission; they forced turnovers to make a 7-2 run. Lillard and guard Gary Trent Jr. kept the game close. Schroder was subbed out of the game after getting his fourth foul, but the Lakers had plenty of fight. Guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Caruso created an 8-2 run, giving the Lakers a six-point advantage late in the third.
“Tonight was about our offense,” Trailblazers head coach Terry Stotts said. “The Lakers did a really good job of being aggressive on us.”
In the fourth quarter, the Lakers pulled away by attacking the paint. Trent Jr. battled to close the Blazers double-digit deficit, but other Blazers players were missing the mark in shooting.
“We definitely got to compete at a high level that we did again tonight and repeat what we did defensively on the floor going forward,” Harrell said. “I think that’s the very first place that we can start on as far as continuing this.”
On Sunday, the Lakers will host the Golden State Warriors at 5:00pm.