All eyes on Lillard as Blazers, Lakers ready for Game 3

The Portland Trail Blazers’ chances of slaying the Los Angeles Lakers may depend on the left index finger of star guard Damian Lillard.

Lillard dislocated the finger during Portland’s Game 2 loss but is scheduled to be on the floor when the Trail Blazers face the Lakers on Saturday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference first-round series near Orlando.

Portland coach Terry Stotts told reporters on Friday that Lillard was undergoing a battery of tests. Stotts said Lillard will play and will likely wear a splint.

Lillard was injured while playing defense in the third quarter of Thursday’s 111-88 loss to the Lakers when he hit the finger on the foot of Lakers forward Anthony Davis. He immediately grabbed the finger and asked to be replaced. He didn’t return.

“It’s just sore, a little bit tender to the touch,” Lillard told reporters after the contest. “Dislocated it so it’s just sore, a little bit swollen and uncomfortable.”

Much of the game was uncomfortable for Portland, which was outclassed by the top-seeded Lakers after pulling off an impressive 100-93 victory in Game 1. Los Angeles evened the series with Thursday’s easy triumph.

Los Angeles was intent on rebounding and did so in impressive fashion as it held a 30-point lead after three quarters and led by as many as 33.

“We’re playing scrappy,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said afterward. “We’re competing at a very high level. The care factor on the defensive side of the ball is where it should be to win in the playoffs. And we have tremendous, tremendous respect for the offensive firepower of the basketball team that we’re playing.”

Los Angeles limited eighth-seeded Portland to 8-of-29 shooting from 3-point range and Lillard hit just 1 of 7 attempts. He made 6 of 13 in the opener.

Davis was crisper by making 13 of 21 shots en route to 31 points and 11 rebounds. Davis had 28 points and 11 boards in the opener but connected on just 8 of 24 field-goal attempts.

Some encouragement from forward LeBron James soothed Davis’ frustration over his Game 1 outing while also fueling the turnaround.

“He said it’s one game and as a guy who’s won multiple championships and been in these situations before, he knows what to expect,” Davis told reporters of James’ pep talk. “He knew what to expect from his teammates and he just was there for me to kind of encourage me and keep me level headed.”

The victory also ended a long playoff victory drought for the Lakers.

Los Angeles had lost seven consecutive playoff games since winning Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder on May 18, 2012 during the Kobe Bryant era. The Lakers lost the last two games of that series, were swept in four games by the San Antonio Spurs the following season and then lost to the Trail Blazers on Tuesday.

James wasn’t all that interested when asked about ending the skid.

“I know what we’re capable of,” James said. “I know how we’re built. And I don’t compare us to anyone. I compare us to us.”

James had a quiet contest with 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds while committing six turnovers.

Meanwhile, Lillard had 18 points in 30 minutes before exiting but his teammates didn’t do much to pick up the slack.

Backcourt mate CJ McCollum (13 points) was the only other starter in double digits but was just 6 of 16 shooting. Frontcourt starters Jusuf Nurkic (nine points), Wenyen Gabriel (seven) and Carmelo Anthony (two) were a combined 8 of 24 from the field.

“We just got outplayed,” Lillard said. “Obviously we came out, won the first game, so it’s natural for them to come out and be a little bit more aggressive, to have a little bit more fight. And we didn’t come out relaxed.”

Stotts indicated that perhaps his team was due for a shaky performance. The loss was just Portland’s third in 11 games since the resumption of the season in late July.

“We’ve been playing at a pretty high level at the offensive end for three weeks,” Stotts told reporters. “And not to take away anything from the Lakers, they played really well at both ends of the floor and beat us in most areas of the game. So obviously credit goes to them, but I thought this was probably the first game that we’ve had since we’ve been down here where we looked a little slow and didn’t have the same pop.”

Portland also learned Friday that big man Zach Collins (ankle) will miss the rest of the playoffs and will require surgery.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles point guard Rajon Rondo (thumb) is questionable and could make his first appearance since the season resumed in late July.

–Field Level Media


from Blogger

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