Tuesday, February 20, 2024

NBA Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (12-29) at Los Angeles Lakers (21-22)

With consecutive victories for the first time since just after Thanksgiving, the Portland Trail Blazers hit the road on Sunday to face the Los Angeles Lakers in an effort to match their longest winning streak of the season.

The Trail Blazers earned a 118-115 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday, two days after Anfernee Simons scored in the final second to give Portland a 105-103 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

Portland has won three consecutive games just once this season, in early November, when it was feeling somewhat optimistic with a 3-3 record.

Since then, the road has been rough in the Blazers’ first season since trading Damian Lillard, but Simons and Jerami Grant are providing a lift at the midway point of the season.

After Simons scored the game-winner on Wednesday and finished with 20 points despite playing with an illness, he sat out Friday’s game while still feeling ill. Grant picked up the slack, scoring 37 points two days after a 30-point performance.

Malcolm Brogdon also stepped up against the Pacers, scoring a season-high 30 points. Brogdon was 10 of 10 from the free-throw line, while the Blazers went 30 of 35 as a team.

Portland outscored Indiana 30-22 in the second quarter and led by as many as 12 in the first half. The Blazers led 104-91 with 6:52 remaining in the game after Grant’s driving layup and were up 11 with 1:50 to go before holding off the Pacers’ late rally.

Rookie point guard Scoot Henderson left Friday’s game with a nasal contusion and is questionable for Sunday.

Los Angeles has been wildly inconsistent as of late, and coach Darvin Ham is fed up. The Lakers fell apart against the Nets on Friday in a 130-112 home defeat after they entered the game with consecutive victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks.

The Lakers raced out to a 37-28 lead after the first quarter on Friday on 65.2 percent shooting from the floor. But the Nets outscored Los Angeles in each of the next three quarters and took their first lead with 8:09 left in the third quarter. Brooklyn continued to distance itself, leading by as many as 23 points in the fourth quarter.

Anthony Davis scored 26 points and added 12 rebounds and LeBron James scored 24 points and grabbed 11 boards for Los Angeles, but the defense allowed Brooklyn to shoot 52.6 percent from the floor and make 19 3-pointers.

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