A Long Season Ends With Game 5 Loss To Lakers
The Portland Trail Blazers entered Game 5 of their first round series versus the Los Angeles Lakers like they had so many contests during the 2019-20 season: severely undermanned due to decimation by injury.
But the 2019-20 Trail Blazers also made a habit of refusing to quit even in the face of long odds, which was the more important trait on display Saturday night.
Despite having just nine players in uniform, the Trail Blazers, who all wore headbands to honor the passing of Clifford Robinson, gave the one-seed Lakers all they could handle for three and a half quarters before finishing their season with a 131-122 loss at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus at the Walt Disney World Resort outside of Orlando.
“As I said before the game, I thought we would compete, and we did,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I was really proud of the way we played tonight. We ran out of gas but we just kept hanging around. When you’re against a better team, all you can hope is to hang around, make it a fourth-quarter game and win it at the end. So we didn’t quite get to the end.”
With the loss, the Trail Blazers have been eliminated 4-1 from postseason play, with the Lakers moving on to play the winner of the Rockets/Thunder series.
“We came down here, we played nine playoff games to get into the playoffs,” said Stotts, referencing the eight seeding games and the play-in game they had to win in order to qualify for the postseason. “I think what they showed individually and collectively, I told them I don’t know if I’ve been more proud of a group of guys than what they did down here in the bubble... We deserved to be in the playoffs and they made it happen.”
Considering how they lost Games 2, 3 and 4 and the fact that they would be without Damian Lillard (right lateral knee sprain) along with a host of other players, the probability of a blowout in Game 5 seemed high.
But behind the play of CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony, the Trail Blazers were able to stay within arm’s reach of the Lakers for nearly 48 minutes Saturday night. Portland even held an eight-point lead in the second quarter before the Lakers, thanks to 24 points from LeBron James, managed to tie the game at 68-68 going into the intermission.
After another lackluster third quarter -- another hallmark of the 2019-20 Trail Blazers’ season -- allowed the Lakers to take a 100-92 lead into the fourth, Portland scored the first eight points of the fourth to tie the game at 100-100 with 9:46 to play. But after keeping it close for the next four minutes, Lakers forward Anthony Davis went on a personal 9-0 run to push the advantage to 123-112 with 3:39 to play.
Tired from a hard-fought and emotional few weeks, the Trail Blazers were unable to make up the difference, and eventually sat what little of the regular rotation was left in order to get the bench in the game for the final few moments of the 2019-20 season.
“We went through a lot,” said McCollum. “Obviously we missed some players but injuries are a part of the game, it would have been nice to have everybody. But all in all, I thought we competed.”
McCollum played all but the final 1:56 of Game 5, finishing with 36 points on 12-of-24 shooting from the field, seven assists, six rebonds and a steal.
Anthony, who stated postgame that he’d like to return to Portland next season, went 9-fo-16 from the field for 27 points to go with seven rebounds and an assist in 40 minutes.
“The fact that Melo came and played for the Blazers was special,” said Stotts. “What he meant to the team and the way he conducted himself, the way he played. Obviously in the bubble he made some big shots and got us into the playoffs. I feel very honored to have been able to coach him. He’s a Hall of Fame player and he’s a Hall of Fame guy.”
Jusuf Nurkić finished up his return to basketball after spending 16 months rehabbing from injury with 16 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, five steals and a block in 37 minutes.
Gary Trent Jr, who got the start in place of Lillard, added 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in just under 40 minutes. Anfernee Simons came off the bench to shoot 4-of-7 for 16 points.
Anthony Davis led all scored with 43 points in 36 minutes. James finished with 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the triple-double.
With their season now completed, the Trail Blazers will board a flight Sunday afternoon from Orlando bound for Portland.