All-Stars, Free Throws Too Much For Portland To Overcome In Game 3

by Casey Holdahl
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After taking a lead into the halftime intermission, the Trail Blazers were unable to hold of the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half, eventually falling 116-108 in Game 3 of the Western Conference one/eight matchup at AdventHealth Arena on the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus on the grounds of the Walt Disney World Resort outside of Orlando.

“The end of the third quarter kind of game them some momentum, but it came down to a fourth-quarter game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Anthony Davis made his perimeter shots and we came up empty too often. Came down to the fourth quarter and they made their shots and we didn’t.”

Portland now trails in the best-of-seven series 2-1 and have lost two straight games to Los Angeles.

After looking listless to start Game 2, the Trail Blazers came out enthusiastic and aggressive in Game 3. Damian Lillard, despite playing with a dislocated index finger on his left hand, found his stroke early, going 4-of-7 from the field and 3-of-5 from three for 14 first-quarter points.

CJ McCollum picked up where Lillard left off in the second quarter, going 5-of-10 from the field and 3-of-7 from three for 13 points. Were it not for 15 points from LeBron James and the fact that the Lakers shot 31 free throws in the first half compared to just eight for the Trail Blazers, Portland very likely would have gone into the intermission leading by more than the 57-53.

“The discrepancy in free throws is something that’s out of our control,” said Lillard. “Last game we came out, they played a really physical game, they played a really aggressive game and that led to a blowout victory for them. And tonight, we came in saying we wasn’t gonna get bullied and let them out-physical and out-aggressive us. Maybe some times we did foul, but they’re a physical team as well. When a team is living at the free throw line like they did tonight as a team, it’s going to be hard to win a game against a team that’s as good as they are.”

But just as the Trail Blazers started to get a reprieve from the officials -- the Lakers shot just six free throws in the third quarter, one fewer than Anthony Davis alone shot in the first quarter -- the Lakers started to find their offense. Davis scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, Kentavious Caldwell Pope made three three-pointers and LeBron James, who bulled his way into the paint early and often in Game 3, made three threes and three free throws, resulting in Los Angeles outscoring Portland by 11 in the third to take a 93-86 lead into the fourth.

“That third quarter, again, hurt us,” said Stotts. “We got off to a slow start and at the end of the third we had a bad stretch.”

With Lillard, McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and Jusuf Nurkic all playin to start the fourth, Portland got the Los Angeles lead down to three early in the quarter. But the Trail Blazers were unable to get the stops they needed down the stretch and shot just 33 percent from the field and 1-of-7 from three in the fourth. Meanwhile, Davis continued to punish the Trail Blazers from inside and out, scoring 12 points in the fourth to lead the Lakers to the eight-point victory.

“Davis got it going from the perimeter, especially in the second half,” said Stotts. “For the most part, our objective is to keep him out of the paint, he got some offensive rebounds. He played really well. Just like in Game 2, when he’s making his perimeter shot, that just opens up the game for him.”

Lillard finished with 34 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field, 5-of-11 shooting from three and 13-of-14 shooting from the free throw line to go with seven assists and five rebounds in 43 minutes. McCollum finished with 28 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in 42 minutes.

Carmelo Anthony scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter while also finishing with six rebounds, four steals and two assists in 42 minutes.

Jusuf Nurkic added 10 points and seen rebounds and Hassan Whiteside, who started his first game Saturday night since the season was suspended back in March, added eight points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes.

James led all scorers with 38 points to go with 12 rebounds and eight assists. Davis finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and Caldwell-Pope added 13 points.

Next up, the teams have an off day before meeting for Game 4 Monday night at the Disney World. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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