Winning Streak Versus Lakers Extended To 14 With Victory At Staples
LOS ANGELES -- It'll be a merry Christmas in Rip City after all.
Playing their second game without starting point guard Damian Lillard (right hamstring strain), the Trail Blazers bested the Los Angeles Lakers 95-92 Saturday night at Staples Center. With the win, the Trail Blazers improve to 17-16 overall and 10-6 on the road this season.
With the victory, the Trail Blazers extend their winning streak versus the Lakers to 14, which is tied for second-longest streak against the Lakers and their fourth-longest streak versus any team.
"I forgot about (the streak) but that's crazy," said CJ McCollum, who is one of just three players on Portland's roster who was on the team the last time they lost to the Lakers.
After trailing, albeit not by much, for almost the entirety of the first 36 minutes of play, Portland went on an 8-0 run in the final minute of the third quarter to tie the game at 70-70 going into the fourth.
Then Maurice Harkless took over. The 6-9 forward put up 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, including an offensive rebound turned and-one putback that gave Portland a 94-92 lead with 21.4 seconds to play.
Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got a good look at a corner three on the next possession, though the shot was off and Harkless was able to corral the rebound. Harkless was immediately fouled and made one of two from the line to extend Portland's lead to three with 9.9 seconds to play.
The Trail Blazers' plan was to foul on the next possession in order to avoid a potential game-tying three-pointer, but McCollum fell while chasing Caldwell-Pope around a screen, leaving the Lakers guard relatively open again for another look from behind the arc. But Caldwell-Pope's attempt was off yet again, with Harkless getting the rebound yet again before running out the remainder of the clock to come away with the win.
"It was huge to come here and get this win, especially with the way we've been struggling and not having Damian," said Harkless. "Going into this break, I think that's pretty big for us just to have these two days off to decompress and come back ready to play."
Maurice Harkless led all scorers with a season-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting to go with six rebounds, two blocks and an assist in 25 minutes.
"When it's time to win I've got to do whatever I've got to do to win and tonight it was score," said Harkless. "We just had to figure out how to get something going and I had an advantage a lot of times in the post and I just knocked down a couple shots. My teammates did a great job finding me when I had an advantage or when I was open. All I had to do what knock down shots."
Shabazz Napier got his first start of the season, finishing with 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting, five assists, three steals and three rebounds in 35 minutes. CJ McCollum went just 7-of-23 from the field but still managed to go for 17 points. Zach Collins added 11 and Al-Farouq Aminu grabbed 10 rebounds to go with five points in 22 minutes.
Both Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers with 18 points. Julius Randle added 16 points and nine rebounds while both Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Josh Hart pitched in 11.
To call Maurice Harkless' 2017-18 season up and down thus far would probably be an understatement. After starting the first 18 games of the season, the 6-9 forward in his sixth season out of St. John's has seen his minutes drop precipitously as he struggled shooting from both the field (41 percent) and from three (26 percent). Harkless even drew four consecutive DNPs before playing 19 minutes in Portland's loss to the Nuggets on Friday.
But he was back in the rotation Saturday night in Los Angeles, turning in a performance that could very well result in a return to the role he held to start the season. After not scoring in double figures since the sixth game of the season, Harkless put up a season-high of 22 points, 13 of which he scored in the final quarter, on 9-of-16 shooting.
"I just stayed ready," said Harkless. "Without Dame tonight we had to figure out another way to get some more scoring and help our team win. My teammates were finding me and I was just taking advantage of the opportunities."
Harkless wasn't the only Portland reserve to turn in a great performance in Saturday night's game -- every Trail Blazers bench player finished with a positive plus/minus -- but his was the most integral in securing the victory.
"The four guys off the bench really made a great contribution," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "I was really happy for Moe. He hasn't been playing much and came through with a lot of big plays."
SHABAZZ REALLY IS THE MAN
Second-year forward Jake Layman got the start in place of Damian Lillard in Friday night's loss to the Nuggets at the Moda Center, though he ended up playing just 10 minutes to finish with two assists and a rebound.
After that experiment, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts went with a more conventional approach by starting fourth-year guard Shabazz Napier alongside CJ McCollum, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jusuf Nurkić. Napier would prove to be the right man for the job, shaking off a 0-for-5 start to finish with 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 shooting from three to go with five assists and three rebounds.
"Even yesterday, going into the game, I had to pick my spots," said Napier. "I haven't started in the league in a while, so it's definitely difficult from coming off the bench and then starting or playing a lot of minutes. You've got to figure out how to work your spots and I think today I did a better job of it."
THEY SAID IT
“We needed it really bad, and we didn’t give up. We were down for a lot of that game, and we kind of had to fight our way back into it. Once we saw something that kind of worked, we just kept sticking to it and kept making different reads out of different plays. Obviously Moe stepped up huge for us, and Shabazz as well, so I think as a unit we kept playing together, kept moving the ball, and kept getting stops." -- Zach Collins
With their sixth back-to-back series of the season now in the books, the Trail Blazers have four days off over Christmas before hosting the Philadelphia 76ers on December 28 at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on TNT.