What a different a day makes.
In an astonishing sequence midway through the third quarter, Anthony Davis slammed home a rim-rattling dunk, hit a step-back three-pointer, grabbed two rebounds, blocked a shot, and then hit a fadeaway mid-range shot to put the Lakers up by 30 points.
He was not going to allow a repeat of Game 1.
Davis had 31 points and 11 rebounds and the Los Angeles Lakers blew out the Portland Trail Blazers, 111-88, in Game 2 of the NBA Playoffs to even their first-round series at 1-1.
“I just wanted to come out tonight with the mindset tonight to be aggressive and to help my team on both ends of the floor and do whatever I had to do to help the team win,” said Davis.
Because of Davis’ stellar play, LeBron James did not need to do as much as he did in Game 1. James finished with a playoff career-low 10 points in just 26 minutes of action.
Prior to Game 2 of the NBA Playoffs between the Blazers and Lakers, Los Angeles’ head coach Frank Vogel spoke to his team in the locker room.
The veteran head coach realized the importance and urgency of the moment: his team, the number one seed in the Western Conference, had just lost Game 1 of their first-round series against the No. 8 seed Trail Blazers less than 48 hours prior. Vogel emphasized that the Lakers needed to get out to a good start in Game 2.
The Lakers couldn’t afford to start slow and sluggish like they did in Game 1, when they were 0-for-8 from three-point range, allowed 36 points, and trailed by as many as 16 in the first quarter against the Blazers.
The Lakers heeded the warning from their head coach and responded in-kind. Los Angeles jumped out to an early 16-8 lead to start the game, and held the Blazers to just 39 points in the first half! Three points more than they allowed in just one quarter in Game 1.
“We returned to form offensively. The law of averages, those things come around. They came around some tonight, but we could have shot the ball even better,” said Vogel about how the Lakers started the game on Thursday compared to Game 1 on Tuesday. “But our defense in the first quarter was far better in this game than it was in game 1. A lot of breakdowns in Game 1. We held this team in the first and third quarter to under 20 points. That’s extremely difficult to do. That’s appropriate and necessary against this opponent.”
Mostly, the difference between Games 1 and 2 could be attributed to the Lakers effort, energy, and ability to correct their own mistakes.
The Lakers were a step slow on defense in Game 1, they allowed the Blazers to shoot over 38 percent from beyond the arc, including Damian Lillard, who was 6-for-13 from three.
The Lakers tightened up their perimeter defense in Game 2, holding Portland to just 27 percent shooting from deep, and limiting Lillard to just 18 points on 1-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Lillard left the game with a dislocated left index finger at the end of the third quarter and did not return.
“It’s just sore,” Lillard said. “A little bit tender to the touch. Dislocated it. A little bit sore, a little bit swollen. Uncomfortable.”
In addition to limiting their opponent’s shooting from three-point range, the Lakers themselves needed to shoot better. The team shot a horrific 15 percent (5-for-32) from three in Game 1, and many of them were wide-open shots. They shooting improved significantly in Game 2, as the Lakers were 14-for-39 (37%) from three-point range and 48 percent from the field. The 14 three-pointers were a franchise record, surpassing their previous high of 13 in May of 2010.
Part of the Lakers success from beyond the arc was the improved play of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who did not make a shot in Game 1. In Game 2, he was 4-for-6 from three-point range for 16 total points. J.R. Smith, in his first playoff action since the 2018 NBA Finals, was 3-for-9 from three for 11 points.
Another point of emphasis was the Lakers free-throw shooting. They were 20-for-31 for 64 percent from the charity strip in Game 1, and were 9-for-10 in Game 2.
Best of all, the Lakers led by 30 points for the final 15 minutes of the game, and the lopsided score allowed LeBron and Davis to rest the entire fourth quarter as they conserve energy for Game 3 on Saturday.
“Being able to take advantage of some rest is going to help those guys and hopefully it pays off in Game 3,” said Vogel.
Thursday was the Lakers first playoff victory since May of