LOS ANGELES — The Lakers knew a by-committee approach would be needed for Sunday’s home matchup vs. the Portland Trail Blazers, their first game this season without star forward LeBron James.
And that’s exactly what they got, with Anthony Davis (30 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three blocks) leading the way in the Lakers’ 116-110 win over the Blazers to put them .500 (5-5) 10 games into the season.
“I [saw] the fro back so I thought it was going to be a good day for him,” Austin Reaves said of Davis, “No, but it’s Anthony Davis. Anytime he gets on the floor – obviously, never want to have anyone out, especially Bron – but anytime you’ve got Anthony Davis, you’ve got a chance. Changes the game in so many different ways the stat sheet doesn’t even show.”
Even with the Lakers having the talent advantage, the short-handed Blazers kept it close.
The game’s deficit was within single digits for the entire first half and most of the third quarter, with Cam Reddish (season-high 18 points, seven rebounds and three steals) and D’Angelo Russell (11-point, 11-assist double-double) helping keep the offense afloat in the first two quarters.
Davis and Austin Reaves (18 points, four assists and four rebounds off the bench) gave the Lakers the boost they needed late in the third to create meaningful separation. The duo combined for 19 points in the third – including 16 in the quarter’s 5:35 – to give the Lakers a 91-80 lead going into the third.
The Blazers stuck around and didn’t make sealing the victory easy for the Lakers. Jerami Grant’s 3-pointer brought Portland’s deficit down to 108-106 with a little over two minutes remaining.
From there, the Lakers lean on their top scorers. Davis hit a turnaround jumper over Grant out of the post to give the Lakers a 110-106 lead with 1:57 remaining. On their next possession, Davis assisted a cutting Rui Hachimura (19 points, five rebounds, two steals) on a layup after being doubled in the post, putting the Lakers up 112-106.
The Blazers didn’t score again until Grant’s layup brought the deficit down to 112-108 with 18 seconds left. Hachimura, who started in place of James, and Reaves sealed the win with free throws down the stretch.
“As we get more comfortable and familiar with one another, as we continue to plant the seeds and water them, I think you’ll see the growth here pretty soon,” coach Darvin Ham said. “You’re already seeing flashes of it, albeit different guys [have] been missing out the lineup at various times. But just the core belief of the way we have to play in order to win games, and it all starts on the defensive end.”
The Lakers had six players score in double figures, including Taurean Prince (11 points on 5-of-9 shooting).
They used their advantages on the interior (68 points in the paint to Portland’s 48) and the free-throw line (30 of 37 compared to Portland’s seven of nine) to overcome their poor outside shooting (4 of 19 on 3-pointers).
“Guys are still figuring out their rhythms in terms of the synergy with one another, each other’s tendencies and habits,” Ham said. “We’re encouraging our guys, ‘If you’re open, shoot it. If there’s a better play to be made, then make that play.’ But that’ll come. That’ll come. The biggest thing that you can do in the meantime, though, is be good defensively.
“Continue to work feverishly on that side of the ball in terms of your transition D, being great defending on the ball, communicating our coverages in pick-and-roll, DHOs and what have you, and just being shifted and very active off the ball. So, it’s gonna come.”
James sat because of a left calf contusion he suffered in Friday’s road win over the Phoenix Suns.
The Blazers were without Malcolm Brogdon (left hamstring), No. 3 pick Scoot Henderson (right ankle), Anfernee Simons (right thumb) and Robert Williams III (right knee).
The Lakers will return to Crypto.com Arena on Tuesday for a matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies on the first night of a back-to-back before playing the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.