The Portland Trail Blazers (28-29) came one 3-pointer short of tying a team record for most in a game as they took down a LeBron-less Los Angeles Lakers (26-32) team 127-115 on Monday at the Moda Center.
There was no slow start this time against the Lakers as the Blazers came out hot. Red hot.
Portland hit 10 3-pointers in the first quarter as a team, led by Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and newly acquired Matisse Thybulle in his Blazers debut. All three had two a piece.
Not only that, Thybulle showed off why the Blazers wanted him after he sent a 3-point attempt by Lakers guard Malik Beasley a couple rows into the stands.
✨Matisse Thybulle✨ pic.twitter.com/uDnZQVTFcK— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) February 14, 2023
Anthony Davis went to work down low, but it was nearly enough to keep pace with the hot shooting as the Blazers went up 34-19 after one.
Then Lillard really took over in the second, hitting six more 3-pointers and scoring 24 points alone in the second quarter. He went into the break with eight made 3s and 30 points.
Davis went into the break with 13 points and 13 rebounds as the Lakers looked good on the offensive glass, grabbing 10 rebounds on that end that led to 13 second chance points. But when Lillard is this hot, it’s hard to keep pace.
Not only that, but the Blazers set a franchise record for made 3-pointers in any half with 17 in total.
Portland went into halftime up 65-46 despite being dominated down low and scoring only eight points in the paint compared to LA’s 28.
Thybulle kept it going in the third quarter, hitting two more wide-open 3-pointers. He came to Portland labeled as an offensive liability, but he had eight in the third frame alone to help maintain the lead.
Shaedon Sharpe played well also, picking up seven points in the third to give Lillard some help offensively.
Former Oregon Duck Troy Brown Jr. kept the Lakers within distance with 11 points, but the Blazers offense continued to hit from deep with five more 3-pointers in the third.
Lillard got five more points in the fourth to get to 40 on the night as the Blazers defense stayed stout. That prompted an early emptying of the bench for both sides with about six minutes left in the game
Lillard’s 40 led the way along with six rebounds and five assists. Sharpe had 15, Thybulle had 14, Simons had 14 and Little had 11 to spread out the scoring love. David finished the night with 19 points and 20 rebounds for the Lakers.
It was an overall great night for Portland with their new additions, playing plenty of defense with 12 turnovers forced and seven blocked shots.
It’s going to take some hot shooting nights to keep winning, but Monday was a showing it can be possible.
Portland will be back in action again at 7 p.m. Tuesday with Washington coming into town and the All-Star break to follow after.
What they said
“It is difficult to have two new guys out there, it’s difficult to have one. We’re at such an important part of our season, but it is what it is. We made the moves for a reason, with those two guys we believe in them. We put them in positions out there and there and it’s not like they’re rookies and haven’t played. They’ve played before so they kind of understand what’s going on. But it is, it’s a trial and error period out there, but we all have to go through it together,” Billups said.
“I thought (Thybulle) was great. Disruptive defensively, getting deflections. It seemed like every other possession he was getting his hand on the ball. He just makes plays defensively, he’s an all-defense player and it was very obvious to me and I’m sure it was obvious to everybody watching. Usually you expect guys to lock people up on the ball and give people trouble, but guys like him go from the help position to deflecting the pass to cracking back and blocking shots. He just does everything defensively and with a lot of energy, he covers a lot of ground,” Lillard said.
“The first thing was I felt comfortable. Like I didn’t realize how much you can take that for granted. Just to be out there and feel comfortable and to feel and know I’m wanted and needed, this coaching staff and the players have my back. I think it showed in just my ability to play and be more of myself I think,” Thybull said.
Nothing but net: If you don’t have much size, you gotta shoot the ball well. And Portland did exactly that. Lillard led the way with eight made 3-pointers in the first half, but everyone was hitting shots after Thybulle missed a couple early ones. They finished the night with 23 made, one shy of the team record of 24 that came back against Charlotte on March 1, 2021.
Thybulle debut: Billups went with Thybulle in the starting lineup and got what many expected out of the defensive-minded guard. He went into halftime with six points, three blocks, a steal and plenty of deflections. He finished the night with 14 points and hit four 3-pointers, the most he’s hit in a game since his rookie season.
More climbing: Lillard passed Jason Terry (18,881) on the NBA’s all-time scoring leaderboard with his sixth point of the night. The Portland superstar now sits at No. 65 on the ladder.
Game grade: A
Everything was working well tonight expect guarding Davis. But that didn’t matter when Lillard was hot and the rest of the team hit shots behind him. Seeing Thybulle for the first time was an impressive showing. He can cover a lot of ground for an ailing defensive team like Portland. The trick for Billups is to get that energy spread to the rest of the team. Thybulle can only do much, as seen by Josh Hart and Gary Payton II who are now out the door. Thybulle will be able to fill certain holes, but he can’t fill them all. Thybulle said after the game he’s excited to see what the defense is like when Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic are back. It should be an interesting set if those three take the court together. Mix in the offense that Lillard and Simons bring and it could be an intriguing starting five to play out the rest of the season.