Around 10 months in the past, the Los Angeles Lakers confronted off with the Portland Trail Blazers in what might have been a springboard for a determined group. It was the night time earlier than the commerce deadline, and the Lakers, lacking Russell Westbrook, have been desirous to show to their entrance workplace that they need to exit and make a splash by beating a Blazers group with out Damian Lillard and a number of other different key gamers. Instead, the Lakers misplaced the sport, the entrance workplace stood pat on the deadline, and the season went down the drain.
The stakes weren’t fairly so excessive on Thursday, however there was the same all-or-nothing really feel to the sport. The 7-12 Lakers, coming off of their worst lack of the season in a heartbreaker towards the Indiana Pacers, have been once more set to face the Blazers with out Lillard. With a brutal stretch of 12 street video games out of 16 complete December dates looming, a loss might need been sufficient to successfully finish the Lakers’ season. Last yr, the Lakers folded on this very state of affairs. This time round? They responded with a convincing 128-109 victory over Portland.
The competitors could have been weak, however on paper, it was every little thing the Lakers might have hoped for coming off of the Pacers sport. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been each wonderful, combining for 58 factors and 19 rebounds. Austin Reaves scored a season-high 22 factors. Russell Westbrook made a half-court shot and continues to thrive off of the bench. Even with out Lonnie Walker IV and Troy Brown Jr., the Lakers managed a sorely wanted win to claw their manner again as much as 8-12.
The Lakers nonetheless have an extended method to go. Their latest 6-2 stretch seems a complete lot worse if you do not forget that half of these wins got here towards the lowly Spurs. They nonetheless have the Bucks, Cavaliers, Raptors and 76ers looming within the subsequent week or so alone. They’re not even in place to achieve the play-in spherical simply but. The season is much from saved.
But the distinction between final yr’s group and this yr’s has by no means been on show in fairly the best way that it was tonight. The 2021-22 collapsed underneath even the faintest breeze. The 2022-23 group, with an older James, a first-year head coach and considerably much less taking pictures, is taking punches and getting again up. That won’t be sufficient to beat a damaged roster and an detached entrance workplace, however in the meanwhile, it is at the very least sufficient to outlive one other night time.
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