Eighth seed Portland Trail Blazers upset top seed Lakers in Game 1
“They have a two-headed monster in Dame and CJ. It starts and ends with those guys. They control the tempo and pace. They do all the ball-handling and are the rock of that franchise. That playoff experience they have and the chemistry between the two of them; we have to have ten eyes on them at a time. Two eyes just guarding the ball, another eight throughout every possession. They’re that dangerous.”
Those were the words of Lebron James, the best player of his generation, before heading into the playoffs. He may have hit the bullseye with his words for the trio of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony proved to be too hot for the Lakers in Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
The Lakers stutter
James put up record numbers to become the first NBA player to have a 20+point, 15+asst, 15+reb platoff game but even that was not enough to propel Los Angeles to a win.
Anthony Davis needs to step up even further (as is evident, his 28pt double double wasn’t enough) and sKyle Kuzma may have to fill in the lacuna of the third big in the Lakers roster.
Lakers had been lackadaisical inside the bubble even before the playoffs began (3-5 record in Orlando) and there had been an apprehension that when they go up against a team like Portland that pack a lot of punch, expected results may fall out of kilter.
The Trail Blazers are not here to fill up numbers
Lillard in a post game interview had, while acknowledging that they were up against the revered duo of LeBron and AD, made his intentions clear that they had fought up to the eighth seed only to get knocked out in the first round.
Dame has not only been playing at an MVP level inside the bubble but also has stepped up his leadership in crucial times carrying forward his entire team together. McCollum might be playing with an injured back but that didn’t appear to encumber him against the Memphis where he outscored everyone but Dame and Ja Morant
The Melo and Nurkic factor
Lebron had mentioned- “They have a Hall of Famer in Carmelo Anthony who can erupt at any point in the game. So you have to always key on him and have that respect factor because you know what he’s capable of doing. I believe Nurkic and Zach coming back from injury has helped them out a lot as well.”
You can never write off a player of Melo’s caliber and he showed that in today’s game chipping in an earnest contribution grabbing 10 boards along with five assists and scoring 11pts including a clutch three at 2:33 when the Portland lead was within one possession (92-89). The Lakers could not chip in at the lead after that.
While LeBron may had be absolutely right about Portland's troika, he may have missed a point about Nurkic, his grandmother’s sad demise may be acting as an emotional fillip for his performance on the court.
The road ahead
Los Angeles Lakers are expected to come back with a cataclysmic force but it would be too early to write any of the two teams off the matchup. Portland is not a typical eighth seed and the Lakers are still among the best teams in this year’s playoffs.
I reckon this is going to be a seven games series (one of the three - the other two being Clippers vs Mavericks and Heat vs Pacers).
Featured image credits: Getty